China, U.S. sign new cooperative research agreement on giant pandas

08:31, January 21, 2011      

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Chinese Ambassador to the US Chen Wangxia (L) shakes hands with Dennis Kelly, Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo, as Ken Salazar (R), US Secretary of the Interior and Mary Kaye Cooper, spouse of US Ambassador to China, look on after signing a new Giant Panda loan agreement, Jan 20, 2011. (Photo/Agencies)

Officials from China and the United States on Thursday signed a new agreement to support panda breeding, research and conservation efforts by the two countries, an exciting news for numerous American fans of the cute animals.

Zang Chunlin, Secretary General of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, and Dennis Kelly, Director of the U.S. Smithsonian's National Zoo, signed the Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement.

Under the agreement, a pair of giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, will remain at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. for five more years.

Also in attendance at the signing ceremony at the National Zoo was Chen Naiqing, wife of China's Ambassador to the U.S. Zhang Yesui, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

On behalf of the Chinese embassy and Ambassador Zhang, Chen expressed appreciation to the National Zoo for taking care of these giant pandas and to all American people for their love for them.

"Although the weather is cold today, the friendship between our people keeps us warm," she said. "I am confident that through joint efforts, our cooperation will grow, our friendship will deepen, and the future will be even brighter."

The first two years of the new agreement, effective immediately through Dec. 5, 2015, include a cooperative study involving reproductive experts from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong and the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute to oversee the breeding of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.

Giant panda Tian Tian is pictured at the Giant Panda Habitat at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington in this still image taken from video, Jan 20, 2011. (Photo/Agencies)

"I am proud that this agreement not only ensures that visitors to the zoo will continue to be able to visit and learn about these beautiful animals, but also provides a strong platform for improving the conservation of wild pandas and their habitat in China," said Salazar.

He said those giant pandas have "long symbolized the close partnership the United States has with China as we work together to conserve and recover one of the world's most endangered species in the wild."

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have lived at the Smithsonian's National Zoo since Dec. 6, 2000. Both pandas were born in Wolong, China and had parents that were wild born. Mei Xiang, which means "beautiful fragrance," will turn 13 on July 22 and Tian Tian, meaning "more and more," will turn 14 on Aug. 27.

The current pair has not produced a cub since 2005, when Tai Shan, a male, was born. Tai Shan went back to China in February, 2010.


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