Two adorable giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and their cubs may be the latest loss to the U.S. due to Donald Trump’s escalating trade war with China.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two giant pandas, have been living their best lives at the national zoo for several years. Technically the duo is owned by the Chinese government and is at the zoo as part of a long-term lease that expires in 2020.
“We’ve had 47 incredibly successful years of partnering with our Chinese colleagues, China Wildlife and Conservation Association, and our current agreement is through Dec. 7, 2020,” a zoo spokesperson recently told the Hill.
“Our giant panda conservation program is all based on science plans that both our scientists and their Chinese counterparts create and implement together,” the spokesperson added.
According to the zoo spokesperson, no one from the Trump administration has contacted the zoo regarding the status of the pandas.
Officials at the Smithsonian zoo are, however, holding out hope that they will come to an agreement to extend the giant panda’s stay, but if Trump’s trade war continues they may lose the beautiful animals.
Back in April the San Diego Zoo was forced to return two giant pandas, Bai Yun, and Xiao Liwu after China refused to offer a new lease.
Visitors packed into the San Diego Zoo to get a final look at the giant pandas before they returned to China. The pandas were repatriated to China on April 27.
For more than a year now the U.S. and China have been raising tariffs on billions of dollars of goods. The trade war has affected economies across the globe and now it is spilling over into the nation’s zoos.
The current agreement between the Smithsonian National Zoo and China covers the zoo’s two adult pandas, Mei Xiang, and Tian Tian, as well as any cubs born at the zoo. One of their male cubs, Bei Bei, is already scheduled to be sent to China in the next few months.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in 2000, on loan in exchange for funds and expertise on giant panda conservation in China. The Smithsonian National Zoo paid $10 million to have the pandas for 10 years.
Giant pandas have long played a prominent and honored role in China’s cultural diplomacy. The animals are rented out to zoos around the world, for as much as a million dollars a year.