China’s Live, 24-Hour Panda Cam

The Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report draws attention to the Chengdu Panda Base’s newly-launched 24-hour “Panda Cam” website: iPanda.com:

China’s Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has launched afree 24-hour live Internet broadcast of the cuddly critters, state-run Xinhua news agency said Monday.

Viewers can watch the at the base in southwestern province, part of their native domicile, via 28 cameras planted in five areas that will feed six channels: “garden for adult ,” “kindergarten,” “nursery for twins,” “mother-and-child playground,” “No.1 Villa” and “featured.”

[…]The Chengdu base is home to more than 80 freely roaming giant pandas, so it’s unclear whether the subjects are different bears or the same few viewed from various angles. [Source]

A post from Quartz positions China’s new cam into the global economy of “Big Panda,” noting that due to natural disaster and successful breeding, China—a country that diplomatically and financially prospers on the local species—is losing the upper hand in negotiations with international zoos:

[…]IPanda—its name a head-scratching endangered animal/Apple product hybrid—is already showing signs of becoming the world leader in panda aggregation.

It’s a reminder that giant pandas are a very big business for the Chinese government—as well as a bamboo-munching 250-pound embodiment of the country’s devastating environmental policies.

[…F]oreign zoos, who spend months or sometimes years, and tens of thousands of dollars, painstakingly breeding the cubs are never allowed to keep them. They return home to China, where the ultimate goal is to reintroduce them into the wild and add to a population estimated at about 1,600—an effort that has met with mixed results.

Like any other big business, pandas are subject to the whims of supply and demand. In 2008, the San Diego Zoo and three others in the United States were able to renegotiate their contracts with the Chinese government, cutting the $1 million annual rent in half, and reducing the fee they paid every time pandas had a cub. Why was China so accommodating? A successful run of breeding panda cubs combined with an earthquake-damaged housing facility had left it with, in the words of one panda expert, with “pandas kind of coming out of their ears.” [Source]

See more on giant pandas and panda diplomacy via CDT.

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