The National Zoo’s first giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, play in their yard.  They were gifts to President Richard Nixon. (AP)

The National Zoo’s first giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, play in their yard. They were gifts to President Richard Nixon. (AP)

First Lady, Patricia Nixon, welcomes the first giant pandas in the United States from China at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo in 1972. (AP)

First Lady, Patricia Nixon, welcomes the first giant pandas in the United States from China at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo in 1972. (AP)

Giant pandas live in the wild only in China. They eat bamboo, and they stay far away from people.

Giant pandas live in the wild only in China. They eat bamboo, and they stay far away from people.

Baby pandas are very furry. They sleep a lot.

Baby pandas are very furry. They sleep a lot.

Pandas for Peace, Pandas for Profit

Posted: July 1, 2020

Munching on bamboo, tumbling over logs, and staring out from adorable black-and-white faces—pandas surely are cute. But did you know that giant pandas—every last one of them—belong to China? Other countries have pandas in their zoos. But they don’t stay forever. China never gives the bears away for good. And the Chinese government takes big bucks for letting other countries “borrow” its bears.

The Chinese word for panda means “big bear cat.” The largest can grow to be up to six feet long and 350 pounds. Like most bears, pandas can eat both plants and meat. But they really want bamboo most. Giant pandas are native only to China. They live in a few mountain ranges in the central part of the country. Their black-and-white fur helps them hide among rocks and snow.

In the 1950s, Chinese officials realized they could use pandas to strengthen relationships with other countries. Zoos around the world wanted the rare bears. There was only one way to get them. Leaders from other countries learned: Make a bargain with China, and your country just might get a panda.

China started out giving its pandas away. The United States received its first pandas in 1972. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were gifts to President Richard Nixon for his work on bettering relations between America and China.

But in 1984, China changed the panda plan. It decided to lend the animals—for a price. Zoos could “rent” the creatures. Then they had to be returned. Any babies born while the pandas visited also had to go back to China.

Zoos around the world still borrow pandas today. How much do they pay? Experts guess $1 million per year.

Seek peace and pursue it. — Psalm 34:14