January 19th, 2011
10:17 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - While the talks between President Obama and President Hu may not have produced major headlines from topics such as currency and trade, there was news about the National Zoo’s beloved pandas.
In the toasts at the State Dinner, President Obama announced that the pandas can extend their visit to the zoo for a little longer. In speaking of the ways that the U.S. and China were working together, Mr. Obama said, “under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.”
“This new five year agreement marks the next great phase for the giant panda program at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, said Director Dennis Kelly. We realized several significant scientific breakthroughs over the past ten years and now we’ll be able to continue our panda breeding efforts here and focus on the next conservation challenges giant pandas face in the wild. We know Americans love Mei Xiang and Tian Tian so it is an honor to have them stay with us for a while longer.”
“The loan of giant pandas to the National Zoo has long symbolized the close partnership the United States has with China as we work together to conserve and recover one of the world’s most endangered species in the wild,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “I am proud that this agreement not only ensures that visitors to the National Zoo will continue to be able to visit and learn about these beautiful animals, but also provides a strong platform for improving the conservation of wild pandas and their habitat in China."
The first pandas to arrive in Washington were during the Nixon Administration when Chinese leader Mao Zedong sent two pandas. They were a result of President Nixon’s historic visit to the People’s Republic of China. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing became a top attraction at the National Zoo until they died in the 1990s.
Bob Kovach contributed to this story