US and China extend giant panda deal

Panda loan between two countries was due to expire this month

Giant pandas will be in residence at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington DC for three more years under an agreement between Chinese and US wildlife officials.

The panda loan deal between the US and China was due to expire this month.

The zoo said it had signed a three-year extension with the Conservation Biology Institute and China Wildlife and Conservation Association.

Under the agreement, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, born in August, will return to China in December 2023.

"Along with millions of Americans, I look forward to the next three years, watching Xiao Qi Ji grow and making further strides in conservation and in our understanding of giant pandas," said Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

The zoo has hosted giant pandas from China since 1972. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have been in residence for 20 years.

Xiao Qi Ji is their fourth surviving cub. The other three were returned to China.

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan province, and another 600 living in zoos and breeding centres around the world.

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