It was a touching moment at the National Zoo in Washington, US: tens of thousands of people from all over the country, and even the world, came to bid farewell to one of the area’s most popular residents. They weren’t saying goodbye to a person, but to a panda.
BaoBao, the zoo’s beloved (受宠爱的) giant panda, left for her new home in Chengdu, China on Feb 22. She’s the first female giant panda born in the US National Zoo and has won the hearts of many Americans since her birth three and a half years ago.
A series of goodbye events were held, including a dumpling party and cake feedings (喂食). Information about her flight was even made available online so that people could keep track of her journey.
“It’s something that, especially with the giant pandas, you know exactly when this is coming,” keeper Stacey Tabellario told the Washington Post. She had helped take care of BaoBao since the panda was born at the zoo.
“We know that they’re going … by the age of four. So we can prepare for it. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get attached,” she added.
BaoBao was destined (命中注定的) to return to her ancestral home due to an agreement between China and the US. In fact, most giant pandas around the world are on loan (租借) from China and cubs (幼崽) born abroad will be sent back before they turn four.
Native to China and adored (喜爱) around the world, the furry black-and-white animals have played an important role in the country’s diplomacy (外交). This is known as “Panda Diplomacy”.
The practice dates back to the Tang Dynasty, when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.
China revived (重启) panda diplomacy in the 1950s when China sent two pandas to the Moscow Zoo. By 1982, China had given 23 pandas to nine different countries. The most famous one was China’s gift of two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, to the United States in 1972 after former President Richard Nixon’s visit to China.
上世纪50年代，我国重新开始了熊猫外交，将两只大熊猫送往莫斯科动物园。到了1982年，中国已经将23只大熊猫送往9个不同的国家。其中最著名的，是我国在美国前总统理查德•尼克松1972年访华后送给美国的两只大熊猫 —— 玲玲和兴兴。
However, since the early 1980s, China has stopped giving away pandas for free because of their decreasing numbers. Instead, the animals are loaned to other countries.
For example, zoos in the US, UK and France “rent” pandas from China. The money they pay for the pandas, which ranges from tens of thousands to millions of US dollars, was used to fund conservation (保护) and breeding programs of the endangered (濒危的) species.
The panda is by no means the only animal serving as an “ambassador of friendship”. Elephants and dogs have also been given as diplomatic gifts. In 1953, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh sent Chairman Mao Zedong two Asian elephants as gifts as a symbol of the friendship between the two countries.