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Pictures | Mon Apr 29, 2019 | 1:30pm EDT

Pandas set to leave San Diego Zoo after two-decade loan from China

Giant male panda Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. The last two giant pandas living at the San Diego Zoo in California will be sent to the People's Republic of China this spring, ending a more than two-decade conservation program that helped bring the black-and-white bears back from the brink of extinction.


REUTERS/Mike Blake

Giant male panda Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. The last two giant pandas living at the San Diego Zoo in California will be sent to the People's Republic of China this spring, ending a more than two-decade conservation program...more

Giant male panda Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. The last two giant pandas living at the San Diego Zoo in California will be sent to the People's Republic of China this spring, ending a more than two-decade conservation program that helped bring the black-and-white bears back from the brink of extinction. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo. The two remaining pandas, Bai Yun and her 6-year-old cub Xiao Liwu, will be sent to China in the coming days after three weeks of goodbyes that culminated over the weekend, the last chance for Californians to see them.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo. The two remaining pandas, Bai Yun and her 6-year-old cub Xiao Liwu, will be sent to China in the coming days after three weeks of goodbyes that culminated over the weekend, the last chance for...more

Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo. The two remaining pandas, Bai Yun and her 6-year-old cub Xiao Liwu, will be sent to China in the coming days after three weeks of goodbyes that culminated over the weekend, the last chance for Californians to see them. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Crowds watch and take pictures as Xiao Liwu enjoys a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. "We knew when we started the program that they were not our bears and that they wouldn't be staying so that was always in our minds," the pandas' keeper, Dallas Dumont, told Reuters. "But we're very proud of what we've accomplished. We set out to help the species and keep it from going extinct and with our Chinese colleagues we've accomplished that," she said.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Crowds watch and take pictures as Xiao Liwu enjoys a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. "We knew when we started the program that they were not our bears and that they wouldn't be staying so that was always in our minds," the pandas' keeper, Dallas...more

Crowds watch and take pictures as Xiao Liwu enjoys a meal of bamboo at the San Diego Zoo. "We knew when we started the program that they were not our bears and that they wouldn't be staying so that was always in our minds," the pandas' keeper, Dallas Dumont, told Reuters. "But we're very proud of what we've accomplished. We set out to help the species and keep it from going extinct and with our Chinese colleagues we've accomplished that," she said. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Giant pandas were threatened with extinction when they were originally loaned to the San Diego Zoo by the Chinese government in 1996, in what was initially intended to be a 10-year program to help re-establish the species. The initial loan was extended to last some 23 years.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Giant pandas were threatened with extinction when they were originally loaned to the San Diego Zoo by the Chinese government in 1996, in what was initially intended to be a 10-year program to help re-establish the...more

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Giant pandas were threatened with extinction when they were originally loaned to the San Diego Zoo by the Chinese government in 1996, in what was initially intended to be a 10-year program to help re-establish the species. The initial loan was extended to last some 23 years. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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4 / 20
A family take a souvenir picture next to Xiao Liwu. In 2016, the status of giant pandas was changed from endangered to vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, reflecting their comeback. As of 2019, there were 2,000 wild pandas in China, their native habitat, according to the zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

A family take a souvenir picture next to Xiao Liwu. In 2016, the status of giant pandas was changed from endangered to vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, reflecting their comeback. As of 2019, there were 2,000 wild...more

A family take a souvenir picture next to Xiao Liwu. In 2016, the status of giant pandas was changed from endangered to vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, reflecting their comeback. As of 2019, there were 2,000 wild pandas in China, their native habitat, according to the zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu drinks water. "China believes in having their animals retire back in their country, or be repatriated, so Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu are now going back home to China," Dumont said.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu drinks water. "China believes in having their animals retire back in their country, or be repatriated, so Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu are now going back home to China," Dumont said. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu drinks water. "China believes in having their animals retire back in their country, or be repatriated, so Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu are now going back home to China," Dumont said. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Bai Yun was born in 1991 at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in China and was among the original cohort of bears loaned to the zoo in 1996. She has since given birth to six cubs and is considered the "matriarch" of the San Diego panda family.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Bai Yun was born in 1991 at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in China and was among the original cohort of bears loaned to the zoo in 1996. She has since given birth to six cubs and is considered the "matriarch"...more

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. Bai Yun was born in 1991 at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Center in China and was among the original cohort of bears loaned to the zoo in 1996. She has since given birth to six cubs and is considered the "matriarch" of the San Diego panda family. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. One of her cubs, Xiao Liwu, is considered essentially a teenager in bear years and zookeepers hope he will breed with a female bear in China. His father, Gao Gao, returned to China in October 2018.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. One of her cubs, Xiao Liwu, is considered essentially a teenager in bear years and zookeepers hope he will breed with a female bear in China. His father, Gao Gao, returned to China in October 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. One of her cubs, Xiao Liwu, is considered essentially a teenager in bear years and zookeepers hope he will breed with a female bear in China. His father, Gao Gao, returned to China in October 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Large crowds gather at the San Diego Zoo to get a final look at Xiao Liwu. In the United States, giant pandas are also kept at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at zoos in Memphis and Atlanta.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Large crowds gather at the San Diego Zoo to get a final look at Xiao Liwu. In the United States, giant pandas are also kept at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at zoos in Memphis and Atlanta. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Large crowds gather at the San Diego Zoo to get a final look at Xiao Liwu. In the United States, giant pandas are also kept at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at zoos in Memphis and Atlanta. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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A visitor to the San Diego Zoo takes a selfie with Xiao Liwu. San Diego Zoo officials said they were working with their counterparts in China to bring pandas back to California.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

A visitor to the San Diego Zoo takes a selfie with Xiao Liwu. San Diego Zoo officials said they were working with their counterparts in China to bring pandas back to California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A visitor to the San Diego Zoo takes a selfie with Xiao Liwu. San Diego Zoo officials said they were working with their counterparts in China to bring pandas back to California. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Large crowds wait in line to view Xiao Liwu.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Large crowds wait in line to view Xiao Liwu. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Large crowds wait in line to view Xiao Liwu. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu sleeps at the San Diego Zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu sleeps at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu sleeps at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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A panda bear shirt is shown for sale at the San Diego Zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

A panda bear shirt is shown for sale at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A panda bear shirt is shown for sale at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu eats a meal of bamboo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Supporters of the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo purchase and hang bells in support of the panda research program with China.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Supporters of the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo purchase and hang bells in support of the panda research program with China. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Supporters of the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo purchase and hang bells in support of the panda research program with China. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu looks out from his home at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Crowds gather to view Xiao Liwu.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Crowds gather to view Xiao Liwu. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Crowds gather to view Xiao Liwu. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Xiao Liwu is seen at the San Diego Zoo. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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