I am so proud of the breeding program at our National Zoo. Relations with China are usually quite strained. We have such differences of opinions on a variety of issues. It is wonderful to see our nations set aside their differences to work and achieve something so remarkable. Giant pandas are beautiful animals that are endangered. With only approximately 1600 pandas alive in the wild and 300 in zoos and breeding centers, any help these animals can get for survival is crucial.
The United States’ work with China in saving the giant pandas began in 1972 with Richard Nixon and his visit to China. China loaned 2 pandas to our National Zoo, Ling Ling, a female, and Hsing Hsing, a male. More recently in 2011 China and Zoo Director, Dennis Kelly signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement which extends our cooperation and commitment to conserve the species for several more years.
The program is proving to be very successful. Mei Xaing has had two cubs survive (Tai Shan male born in July 2009 and Bao Bao born in August 2013). Her births are the result of artificial insemination from pandas in China.
Americans learn a bit of customs and traditions with the birth of these cubs. The cubs are not named for 100 days, a Chinese custom. The National Zoo had a party and ceremony for the naming of Bao Bao on the panda’s 100th day.
It is great to see our nation work with China to keep these amazing animals with us. Hopefully by working together to learn how to save the pandas our relationship with China will continue to grow and prosper. Perhaps this relationship is just the beginning. Perhaps someday we can work together on other issues.