U.S.-born Chinese cub can stay longer

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 24, 2007 12:32pm EDT

1 of 2. Giant panda cub Tai Shan hangs from a tree during the opening of the Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail at the National Zoo in Washington, October 17, 2006. Sometimes strained ties between China and the United States gave way Tuesday to a new detente: the playful giant panda cub born at the National Zoo will be allowed to stay in the U.S. capital two more years.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sometimes strained ties between China and the United States gave way Tuesday to a new detente: the playful giant panda cub born at the National Zoo will be allowed to stay in Washington two more years.

While Beijing and Washington have been at odds over issues such as the value of the Chinese currency and movie piracy, the two sides reached the agreement allowing the zoo to preserve one of its primary tourist attractions.

The 125-pound (56 kg) cub Tai Shan, whose name means "peaceful mountain," has drawn about 2.25 million visitors and was to return to China sometime after his second birthday in July.

"Not only will this give us the opportunity to continue charting his growth and development, but it also gives the public two more years to come visit him here," said National Zoo Director John Berry.

The requirement that any offspring be returned to China after the second birthday was part of the original 10-year deal to bring his father Tian Tian and mother Mei Xiang to the zoo through 2010.

The black-and-white giant panda is one of the world's best-known endangered species.

Tai Shan was the result of artificial insemination and zoo doctors this month conducted two similar procedures on his mother in hopes of producing more cubs. Successful panda births are rare, especially in captivity.

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