Giant pandas to stay in D.C. 5 more years

Jan. 20, 2011 at 12:56 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The panda couple that has been living in Washington's National Zoo for the past 10 years will remain there for another five, officials say.

China agreed to an extension of the original lease, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. China also cut the fee charged the zoo, which was $1 million for the original 10-year agreement.

Tian Tian, a 13-year-old male, and Mei Xiang, his 12-year-old mate, were born at the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda and arrived in Washington Dec. 6, 2000. They have produced one cub in Washington, conceived by artificial insemination, and now back in China.

Giant pandas have been hit hard by habitat loss and a low birthrate, and are classified as an endangered species. Estimates of the wild population, found only in a few mountainous areas in China, range from about 1,800 to 3,000.

All pandas currently in U.S. zoos belong to the Chinese government.

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