27-year-old female giant panda, Bai Yun and her 6-year-old son Xiao Liwu, currently live at the San Diego Zoo in the United States of America. At the end of this month, they will be sent back home.
But where is home for giant pandas?
These black-and-white bamboo eaters live in damp bamboo forests in China. They are also found in many zoos around the world such as the San Diego zoo. Bai Yun and another male panda, Gao Gao were brought here as part of a conservation effort by Chinese authorities. Gao Gao and Bai Yun produced five cubs together, including Xiao Liwu. Gao Gao was sent back to China last year.
How did the zoo’s conservation programme boost the panda population?
The zoo’s giant panda conservation program began more than two decades ago when the species was threatened with extinction. Back then, zoos did not know how to take care of these animals. Over the years, scientists at the San Diego zoo studied the behavior of these animals and helped develop techniques now used around the world to keep young pandas in zoos alive. When pandas first came to the zoo in 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, had listed the species as endangered. Twenty years later, they were downgraded to “vulnerable.”
So why are they being sent back now?
The pandas were brought here based on a 23-year loan agreement which is set to expire on April 27. Then they will be sent to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Dujiangyan.
Two decades ago, the wild population of pandas was estimated to be less than 1,000. As of the latest count in 2014, there were 1,864 pandas living in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund. We hope that this upward trend in their population number continues to grow. They certainly make our world a lot cuter!
Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.