The pair of seven-year-old pandas, Tian Tian and Yangguang, will arrive at Edinburgh zoo this year, marking “the culmination of five years of political and diplomatic negotiation at the highest level” according to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. The agreement was witnessed by [Deputy Prime Minister] Nick Clegg and the vice premier of China, Li Keqiang.
The ambassador of China to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said: “Pandas are a Chinese national treasure. This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China. It will represent an important symbol of our friendship and will bring our two people closer together.”
“The kind gift of a loan of a breeding pair of giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yuangguang, is a sign that we can co-operate closely on a broad range of environmental and cultural issues, as well as commerce,” said Clegg ….
The agreement marks a return to a custom abandoned in recent years. China traditionally presented pandas to other nations to improve foreign relations in what was known as “panda diplomacy”. But the Chinese government reportedly called an end to the practice in 2007, when it said pandas would only be lent out for breeding and biological research.
Hoping to redress the resulting trade imbalance are the American breeders of “panda cows”, miniature pet cattle selectively bred to bear similar black-and-white markings. From CNN Go (with video):
Colorado-based farmer Chris Jessen is raising the miniature cows to look like China’s famous pandas. There have been 24 bred worldwide with the most recent being born in Jessen’s farm. The panda cows — which are bred solely as pets — sell for US$30,000.
The cow — Ben — is the result of a genetic manipulation program run by Richard Gradwohl, a farmer in Covington, Washington. Ben has a white midsection and white face with black ovals around the eyes ….
“We had a Chinese delegation visit our farm and they were fascinated,” said Gradwohl to The (Loveland) Reporter-Herald.
“They want them in China, so we’re going to be exporting.”
If budget and space are tight, a panda butterfly goldfish may offer a more practical alternative.
See also: Behind China’s Charm Offensive in Europe.