Black and white issue

They may look cute, but are pandas worth all the fuss?

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They look cute and cuddly, but they are fussy eaters, bad-tempered, antisocial, lazy and expensive to keep healthy. And, in most instances, you can only keep them for 10 years before they go back home. We’re talking about giant pandas and specifically ­China’s habit of lending the creatures to foreign zoos in a policy that’s known as “panda diplomacy”.

The latest recipient of Beijing's generosity is Malaysia, which has taken delivery of Fu Wu and Feng Yi. Malaysia's environment minister Palanivel Govindasamy says he hopes the gesture will "contribute to building an everlasting friendship and sustainable cooperation" between Malaysia and China.

Clearly, Mr Palanivel is unaware of the so-called “curse of the panda”, which notes that former US president Richard Nixon, Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka and British prime minister Edward Heath all fell from office not long after receiving pandas when “panda diplomacy” was particularly popular in the early 1970s. And Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the man who put the panda on the World Wildlife Fund logo, was forced to resign after being involved in a bribery scandal.