If you were one of the many people mourning the pandas’ departure from the National Zoo last week, we offer a sliver of hope: More pandas could be coming to the United States.
On Wednesday night, Chinese President Xi Jinping dined in San Francisco with several US business leaders following a meeting with President Joe Biden. According to the Associated Press, Xi’s speech at the dinner included a line about the pandas, noting that China is “ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.”
Wait—Californians? Although Xi expressed interest in continuing the tradition of “panda diplomacy,” it doesn’t sound like DC will be first on the list. At the dinner, Xi reportedly implied that the pandas would go to the San Diego Zoo, which has not had a panda since 2019. Meanwhile, it’s only been a week and a day since Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji left the zoo.
“We have no official, new comment on President Xi’s remarks,” says Jennifer Zoon, a spokesperson for the National Zoo. However, she reiterates that the zoo intends to welcome more pandas in the future. In the meantime, the habitat is getting a $1.7 million makeover with a waterfall and new climbing walls for potential panda residents. (Beat that, San Diego!)
Alas, we will continue to hold onto the dream that some fuzzy friends will move to DC once again. Until then, at least we have years of adorable memories to console us while we wait for more updates.