There is a growing fear that Donald Trump's trade war might have some unintended victims: the two giant pandas rented out to the National Zoo of Washington D.C. and owned by China.
Mei Xiang, a woman, and Tian Tian, a man, are on loan to the zoo until next year and, while tensions between Washington and Beijing rise, questions are raised as to whether China will allow a second extension to to keep the beloved bears in the country's capital.
The pandas are owned by China, which rents them to zoos around the world for up to $ 1 million per pair.
The lease of the National Zoo expires on December 7, 2020 and that agreement must be renegotiated if the pandas want to stay.
Giant Panda Mei Xiang and her cub Bei Bei (right) play in their enclosure – the lease to hold Mei Xiang ends next year
Tian Tian plays in his stay at the National Zoo – officials must negotiate with the Chinese to retain him next year
Questions are asked if President Trump's trade war with China will harm negotiations to keep panda bears in the National Zoo
The Memphis and Atlanta zoos are the only other places in America that see the beloved black and white bears, which have a strong attraction for zoos and can help generate income from entrance fees, gift shops and concessions.
China has already extended the original 10-year lease agreement and no discussions have yet started about such an extension.
But Trump's tariff war can make panda politics tricky – although the political situation in the United States may be different after the November elections.
Bei Bei, Mei Xiang and the 4-year-old cub of Tian Tian will return to China in the coming months.
According to the terms of the lease, the cubs return to the Chinese breeding program at the age of 4. Two earlier cubs of the pair have already returned.
Pamela Baker-Masson Zoo spokesperson said in a statement The hill newspaper that officials are not there & # 39; started discussions for the next deal & # 39; and that their current focus is on preparing & # 39; to send Bei Bei to China & # 39 ;.
& # 39; I would like to clarify that we have worked 47 incredibly successful years with our Chinese colleague, China Wildlife and Conservation Association, and our current agreement runs until December 7, 2020. Our gigantic panda protection program is all based on science plans that both our scientists and their Chinese counterparts create and implement together, & # 39; said Baker-Masson.
In April, the San Diego Zoo brought its pandas – Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu – back to China after their lease had not been renewed.
Ya Ya and Le Le arrived in Memphis in 2003 and had extended their lease contracts to 2023.
Lun Lun and Yang Yang arrived in Atlanta in 1999 and had seven cubs – including a pair of twins.
The Atlanta Zoo estimated that it cost $ 2 million a year for the couple – $ 1 million for the lease and the remainder for feeding and caring for pandas. The zoo extended its lease in 2009 after a huge fundraising that helped raise the money to keep them.
Pandas have long been a symbol of American-Chinese relations: First Lady Michelle Obama and Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady of China, unveil Bei Bei's name at the National Zoo on September 25, 2015
Atlanta and Memphis Zoos also have pandas – Mei Lan lives in the Atlanta Zoo
The panda bear has long been a symbol of American-Chinese relations.
In 2015, first lady Michelle Obama and China's first lady, Peng Liyuan, attended the Bei Bei naming ceremony at the National Zoo during a visit to the Chinese state.
In 1972, China donated two pandas to the United States as a thank you for President Richard Nixon's visit to their country.
Those bears – Ling-Ling, a female, and Hsing-Hsing, a male – ended up in the National Zoo and started the relationship between that institution and the Chinese breeding program to preserve the species.
Bai Yun lived in the San Diego Zoo until April of this year when he returned to China
Ling-Ling died in 1992 and Hsing-Hsing died in 1999. The pair had several cubs, but none survived.
In 2000, China sent the National Zoo Mei Xiang and Tian Tian with a 10-year lease, $ 10 million.
A five-year extension was signed in 2011, reducing the price from $ 1 million a year to $ 500,000.
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