While President Trump has shown a proclivity for signing ‘executive orders’ to kickstart his first year in office, this week there was some confusion if animals would also be subject to his stricter immigration policies as well? Coupled with those concerns, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agency have been conducting raids to round up and arrest undocumented immigrants in California and several other border states. With all this disruption and unprecedented activity, might our pandas come under threat of deportation?
An Orderly Order
Well . . . not exactly! While there is a national executive order of sorts in effect for pandas, there is one that was not prompted by the president. This specific one was actually a ‘breeding agreement’ between China and the United States. In it, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the China Wildlife and Conservation Association [CWCA] have agreed to a cooperative plan whereby the Zoo will pay $500,000 per year to support conservation efforts in China, and any cubs born at the National Zoo may stay only until the age of 4, before they are deported to China.
The term of this latest agreement is valid from December 7, 2015 to December 7, 2020.
The reason for this order was predicated on the need to save Giant Pandas. Native to central China, the animals have been labeled endangered as only 1,864 [as of 2015] live in their native habitat, while another 300 live in zoos and breeding centers, according to the zoo’s website. Scientists from the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics hope to “preserve 90 percent of the genetic diversity of the Giant Panda population in human care."
So where does that leave the zoo’s Bao Bao, the world-famous Giant Panda born August 23, 2013? Well, actually she will be departing the United States prior to her 4th birthday [since pandas can start breeding when they turn 4, the early departure appears to be a chance for Bao Bao to obtain a jump start on procreation.]
So in advance of her departure to China, the Smithsonian's National Zoo will host a celebratory series of events, dubbed #ByeByeBaoBao.
From February 11 - 20, these festivities will kick-off with a special members-only celebration hosted by Friends of the National Zoo. There are also designated times for visitors who want to see Bao Bao get treats—or people can view her at any time with the the zoo's online Panda Cam.
Facebook live feeds will highlight Bao Bao painting and training, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of zookeepers packing for her trip. The zoo's panda team will take over the Smithsonian's Instagram page during this time as well. And a special edition of National Zoo News will include keeper memories and a downloadable Bao Bao keepsake. See the complete schedule of activities here.
So, now’s the time to wish a fond farewell to one of our favorite panda, knowing that her deportation was worked out amicably between two superpowers, without the need for a president’s intervention or signature. Good to know there is still some civility in the world, don’t you think?