New deal of pandas in Australia still hangs in balance, but conversations with China are going well: Adelaide zoo director
Published: Apr 02, 2024 12:56 PM
Photo of Wang Wang. Photo: VCG

Photo of Wang Wang. Photo: VCG

There has been no new agreement and deal regarding whether the only pair of panda in Australia can extend their stay, although high-level talks between China and Australia bear good news, the director of the Adelaide zoo, which is the pandas’ current home, told the Global Times, adding that the conversations with China are “going really well.”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in late March that it was likely the two pandas on loan from China since 2009, and due to return in November this year, would have their stay in her home city of Adelaide extended. "We are on a good path to continued panda presence," she told reporters after the meeting with visiting top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi.

Speaking with Global Times on Tuesday, Dr Phil Ainsley, director of the zoo, said that they were not aware whether any conversations would occur about the giant pandas at the time when the top diplomats of the two countries met, and Wong’s message was very encouraging. The Adelaide zoo is now having conversations with the China Wildlife Conservation Association and other authorities, said Dr Ainsley, noting that currently exchanges are going really well.

“What I can say and I can be very clear about, is that the Adelaide zoo would absolutely love to see giant pandas remain in Australia and remain here at the Adelaide zoo. We would very much like to be able to continue having Fu Ni and Wang Wang here or new giant pandas,” said Dr Ainsley.

Fu Ni – who has won a silver medal for the most popular panda outside China – was named “lucky girl” in the hopes she would “fall in the net of love and have a baby.”But after nine attempts at breeding, including four attempts at artificial insemination, Fu Ni has not become pregnant and instead experienced multiple false pregnancies, which are virtually indistinguishable from normal pregnancies.

Dr Ainsley signaled that the Adelaide zoo has stopped their panda breeding program. “In part, the reason for that was for the welfare of Fu Ni, because we're very mindful of Fu Ni and Wang Wang having to return to China. If Fu Ni gets pregnant that would present some welfare challenges on her.”

Since Wang Wang and Fu Ni's arrival, the number of annual visitors to the zoo has increased from roughly half a million to over four and a half million. Many visitors flock to the zoo to see the giant pandas, media reported.

“We appreciate the fact that these national treasures of China say a lot about the friendship and relationships that exist between Australia and China, which are incredibly important,” Dr Ainsley noted.