The San Diego Zoo dismantled its Giant Panda Friendship Wall Tuesday, signifying the end of its giant panda farewell celebration and its 23-year giant panda loan agreement with the People’s Republic of China.
The zoo’s last two giant pandas, 27-year-old panda Bai Yun and her 6- year-old son Xiao Liwu, are scheduled to be repatriated to China later this spring as part of the loan agreement. A third panda, Gao Gao, was repatriated last October.
The zoo held a farewell celebration over the past month to celebrate the species and the zoo’s relationship with Chinese conservationists. According to the zoo, the wild panda population in China has increased to nearly 2,000 bears since its conservation efforts began more than 25 years ago, when there were fewer than 1,000 in the wild.
The zoo’s panda exhibit and panda cam officially shut down Monday evening.
“Although we are sad to see Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu go, we have great hopes for the future,” said San Diego Zoo Director Dwight Scott. “We will continue to work with our partners in China for the next stage of our panda program.”
The friendship wall served as a physical symbol of the month-long celebration, allowing zoo visitors to hang personal messages relaying their adoration for the species upon it as well as commemorative bells, which the zoo sold to fund its future giant panda conservation efforts.
Zoo officials have yet to publicly discuss what their panda conservation programs will look like in the immediate future. Previously, the zoo has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda and the China Wildlife Conservation Association on giant panda research.
—City News Service
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