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 Black and white and bred all over: Panda diplomats

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 History of panda diplomacy

Pandas have long served as goodwill gestures from China since 685, when Empress Wu Zetian, of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), presented a pair to Japan as gifts.

By 1982, 24 Chinese giant pandas had been presented to nine countries including the former Soviet Union, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, Japan, France, Britain, Mexico, Spain and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Donations to other countries stopped in the 1980s. The only way to get a panda now is by leasing one, or through research cooperation.

In the 1990s, the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and China Zoological Association reached an agreement with the International Wildlife Conservation Agency to loan giant pandas in pairs to overseas countries for 10 years for cooperative research with Chinese scientists. These pandas and their offspring remain the property of China during the loan period; annual fees of $ 1 million should be paid to China.

 Applying for a panda

If a foreign country wants a giant panda, step one is submitting an application, but not all applications are accepted. Climate, facilities, technology and potential panda habitat are taken into consideration. The preparations often take over a year.

When choosing pandas to go on missions abroad, a pair of hometown friends are usually chosen. Although it is an "arranged marriage", it helps breeding research. 

10 year leases were the norm and all giant pandas, including babies born overseas, belong to China. Even cast hairs, blood samples, etc. should be sent back, according to the convention.

The international missions of giant pandas have benefited the world's biodiversity and wildlife protection. During the process, China shared its breeding technologies with cooperating foreign countries. Those countries made reciprocal contributions to the protection of giant pandas and their natural habitat in China.

Source: Xinhua - China.org.cn

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