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No Pandas Coming With Chinese President

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Giant Panda

Giant panda Tai Shan sticks his tongue out while he sits in a tree during a media preview of the newly installed Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail on Oct. 11, 2006, at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – Chicago can expect new contracts, but no new pandas, when the Chinese President comes to visit next week.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, Chinese President Hu Jintao is bringing some 400 executives to sign contracts and partnerships with their Midwestern counterparts. It has been a tradition that the Chinese head of state will also now and again present a host city with pandas.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

But at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Vice President Megan Ross says she’d love a visit from the president, but a giant panda for the zoo would not work out.

“We don’t have the setup right now for giant pandas here at Lincoln Park Zoo,” Ross said. “We’re very happy with our red pandas, and we have some other Chinese species which we thoroughly enjoy like the Szechwan takin (a goat-antelope.)”

At Brookfield Zoo, vice Bill Ziegler says giant pandas eat a lot of expensive bamboo that is complex to maintain.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody has more

“The shipping details have to be fairly exact, and know that once you cut, you need to have the bamboo back into a water source within about 36 hours,” he said.

Ziegler says the tourist draw of giant pandas diminishes after a couple of years?

But would he want a giant panda at the Brookfield Zoo, aside from the wooden one that’s part of the zoo’s carousel? Ziegler says that’s a difficult question to answer.

Zoos in Memphis, San Diego, Atlanta and Washington D.C. have displayed giant pandas, often presented after Chinese state visits. But it’s a gift with a long financial tail.

The San Diego Zoological Society says it cost $30 million to lease and keep a panda pair for 10 years, making giant pandas lovable but extremely expensive.

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