Down to its last panda, Mexico ponders what could come next



MEXICO CITY — Xin Xin, the final panda in Latin America, just isn’t your common bear. A local of Mexico, she’s the one remaining member of a diaspora descended from big pandas China gifted to overseas nations through the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties.

Mexico’s Chapultepec Zoo is considered one of solely two zoos that homes pandas with out the direct supervision of the Chinese language authorities. That period could quickly finish after greater than 50 years as a result of Xin Xin, the granddaughter of pandas gifted by China, is childless, in menopause and, at 32, very previous.

It could possibly be the tip for pandas in Latin America altogether if Mexico’s authorities balks on the value of a brand new panda.

Xin Xin is a second-generation Mexican-born panda, tracing her lineage to Pe Pe and Ying Ying, who arrived to the zoo in 1975. They had been a part of China’s early “panda diplomacy,” a interval when the charismatic animals had been gifted to nations all over the world. In 1984, China ended panda presents, switching to a coverage of high-priced loans.

This historical past has made Mexico one of some nations in a position to preserve regionally born panda cubs. Since 1985, the mortgage program has required that zoos return any cubs to China.

After Shuan Shuan’s demise, Mexican officers started talking with China’s ambassador. China now loans big pandas for between 10 and 15 years at a value of $1 million yearly, meant to help panda conservation in China.

The austere administration of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems unlikely to comply with this value. “One other association will certainly should be discovered, however it should rely rather a lot on the desire and requirements of each nations,” mentioned Fernando Gual, director of Mexico Metropolis Zoos and Wildlife Conservation.

Xin Xin’s personal pursuits are extra all the way down to earth. She passes the time enjoyable in a hammock and padding tranquilly round her enclosure searching for bamboo. Typically, her coach additionally hides her favourite deal with, crimson apples.

Watching Xin Xin, Gual smiled as he remembered the July 1, 1990 morning when her mom Tohui stunned everybody on the zoo by giving start to a four-ounce Xin Xin, removed from the digital camera that recorded her actions 24 hours a day.

“It’s not possible to not have an attachment to those animals,” Gual mentioned. “We noticed most of them being born right here.” Tohui was the second panda ever born exterior China, and the primary to outlive infancy, residing to age 12. Pop star Yuri launched a tune expressing the town’s delight and pleasure.

The life expectancy of a large panda within the wild is about 15 years, however in captivity they’ve lived to be as previous as 38. A long time of conservation efforts within the wild and research in captivity saved the enormous panda from extinction, rising its inhabitants from fewer than 1,000 at one time to greater than 1,800 at the moment within the wild and captivity.

Mexico’s outstanding success makes it considered one of solely two zoos to run a panda program exterior the management of the Chinese language authorities, in line with the Congressional Analysis Service. The opposite is in Taiwan, which obtained two pandas in 2008 in alternate of a pair of endangered sika deer.

Eight pandas have been born at in Mexico, of whom 5 survived to maturity. A long time of research on the Chapultepec Zoo have yielded intensive data, in addition to genetic materials — cryogenically preserved semen and ovarian tissue — that scientists right here hope will enable them to proceed aiding within the pandas’ conservation even after Xin Xin is gone.

Carlos Cerda Dueñas, a researcher on the Monterrey Institute of Expertise who has studied panda diplomacy, mentioned that Mexico’s strategic significance might encourage China to make a deal, however that López Obrador’s desire for austerity might make reaching an settlement “very troublesome.”

China’s suspended new panda loans for a time through the COVID-19 pandemic, however the authorities of President Xi Jinping just lately revived it, sending a pair of pandas to World Cup host Qatar.

China is Mexico’s second most vital commerce companion, behind the US, and China’s authorities has been working to develop its affect in Latin America. The potential of leaving the area with none pandas could possibly be leverage for Mexico.

What just isn’t unsure is the drawing energy of the pandas.

On the Chapultepec Zoo there’s a panda museum displaying images of the animals over time, plaster casts of their footprints, bits of panda hair and dozens of youngsters’s drawings. Shuan Shuan’s final birthday piñata is there too.

However Xin Xin is the actual attraction. She bought a birthday piñata, formed like a panda and full of apples and carrots, on July 1.

On a current day, Juan Vicente Araya of Costa Rica marveled at Xin Xin, alongside his household.

“After we determined to journey to Mexico, from the oldest to the youngest, everybody at house got here with the dream of having the ability to see a panda,” Araya mentioned, as he patted the top of his younger son, who was taking part in with a stuffed panda his dad and mom purchased him on the go to.

Araya, who works for a U.S. firm, mentioned the very first thing his group of household and mates did after arriving in Mexico Metropolis from Costa Rica was to go to the zoo to see Xin Xin.

“In Latin America we don’t have a number of alternatives to see a panda,” he mentioned. “The reality is it was value it for us to return from Costa Rica. We’re very excited to satisfy her.”

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