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Pandas get another five-year sojourn in Washington

01-21-2011 14:12 BJT

BEIJING, Jan. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will remain in the National Zoo in Washington for another five years, Chinese officials told a news conference on Wednesday.

Moments after President Hu Jintao and United States President Barack Obama ended a White House news briefing, the China Wildlife Conservation Association announced another five-year agreement with the zoo for giant panda breeding and research rights. The previous agreement expired at the end of 2010.

Zang Chunlin, secretary-general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, said that under the new agreement, China plans to send experts in anesthesia, breeding and raising cubs to the US.

"This is a great opportunity for the American people to know more about Chinese culture and to advance US-China friendship and deep understanding," Zang said.

A signing ceremony to extend the agreement is set for Thursday at the zoo.

The first panda couple, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, arrived in 1972 and lived for more than 20 years at the zoo after former president Richard Nixon's historic visit to China.

Last year, 5-year-old Tai Shan, the first surviving giant panda born at the National Zoo, was sent to China with "very touching farewell activities", Zang said.

"It is very hard for the local people to say goodbye whenever they have to bid farewell to the beloved pandas," said Zang, adding that pandas born overseas on loan belong to China and must be sent back after they become sexually mature.

Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world. Pandas are difficult to breed in captivity as females ovulate only once a year and can only become pregnant during that two or three-day period.

About 1,600 giant pandas are estimated to live in the wild, most in Southwest China's mountainous regions.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: China Daily

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