China to replace Australia’s popular giant pandas

Published June 17, 2024
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong (left) shakes hands with China’s 
Premier Li Qiang (right) as South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas (centre) looks on during Li’s visit to the Adelaide Zoo, on Sunday.—AFP
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong (left) shakes hands with China’s Premier Li Qiang (right) as South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas (centre) looks on during Li’s visit to the Adelaide Zoo, on Sunday.—AFP

SYDNEY: China will loan Australia new “adorable” giant pandas to replace a popular pair that failed to produce offspring in more than a decade together, visiting Premier Li Qiang announced on Sunday.

Adelaide Zoo has been home to Wang Wang and Fu Ni since 2009 when they were loaned by China as part of a global preservation scheme that also serves as a tool of “panda diplomacy”.

Breeding panda cubs is a notoriously difficult task for the low-sexed creatures and hopes of a pregnancy in Adelaide, including through the use of artificial insemination, have been repeatedly dashed. As one of the furry giants played with a strip of tree in the background, Li delivered the news that they will be going home.

“Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been away from home for 15 years — I guess they must have missed their home a lot -- so they will return to China before the end of the year,” the premier said.

“But what I can tell you is that we will provide a new pair of equally beautiful, lovely and adorable pandas as soon as possible.” China would provide Australia with candidates to choose from, said Li, who landed in Adelaide on Saturday on a four-day fence-mending trip after Beijing withdrew a string of trade sanctions on major Australian exports.

The announcement is a nod to Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s efforts to stabilise Australia’s relationship with China, following a diplomatic rift with the former conservative government.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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