It’s Fabiola Sanchez Associated Press
MEXICO CITY – Xin Xin, the last panda in Latin America, is not your average bear. A native of Mexico, he is the only remaining member of the diaspora from the Chinese pandas that were gifted to foreign countries in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico is one of two zoos that keep pandas outside of Chinese government supervision. That era may end soon after more than 50 years because Xin Xin, the granddaughter of the panda who was given as a gift by China, is childless, menopausal and at the age of 32, she is very old.
It could be the end of pandas in Latin America altogether if the Mexican government refuses to pay for a new panda.
Xin Xin is a second-generation panda born in Mexico, and descended from Pe Pe and Ying Ying, who arrived at the zoo in 1975. They were part of China’s early “panda diplomacy,” a time when giant animals had magical gifts. . countries around the world. In 1984, China abolished panda gifts, and changed the policy of high-value loans.
This history has made Mexico one of the few countries that can keep native panda cubs. Since 1985, the loan program has required zoos to return any cubs to China.
After Shuan Shuan’s death, the Mexican authorities began talking to the Chinese ambassador. China is now leasing giant pandas for between 10 and 15 years at a cost of $1 million a year, meaning to help protect pandas in China.
The embattled administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems unlikely to accept this price. “Some planning will definitely need to be found, but it will depend a lot on the will and needs of both countries,” said Fernando Gual, director of Mexico City Zoos and Wildlife Conservation.
Xin Xin’s interests are few in the world. He passes the time relaxing in a hammock and lurking quietly around his fence looking for bamboo. Sometimes, his teacher also hides his favorite food, red apples.
Looking at Xin Xin, Gual smiled as she remembered the morning of July 1, 1990 when Tohui’s mother surprised everyone at the zoo by giving birth to four-ounce Xin Xin, away from the camera that recorded her movements 24 hours a day.
“It’s impossible to be interested in these animals,” Gual said. “We saw many of them born here.” Tohui was the second panda to be born outside of China, and the first to survive as a baby, living at the age of 12. Pop star Yuri released a song expressing the city’s pride and joy.
The life expectancy of a giant panda in the wild is about 15 years, but in captivity it has been 38 years. Decades of conservation work and education in captivity saved the giant panda from extinction, increasing the population. less than 1,000 at one time to more than 1,800 today in the wild and in captivity.
Mexico’s remarkable success makes it one of only two zoos that run a panda program outside of China, according to the DRM Research Service. Another is in Taiwan, which received two pandas in 2008 in exchange for an endangered sika deer.
Eight pandas were born in Mexico, and five of them survived to adulthood. Decades of study at the Chapultepec Zoo have yielded a wealth of information, as well as genetics – well-preserved sperm and ovarian eggs – that scientists now hope will allow them to continue helping to protect pandas even after Xin Xin is gone.
Carlos Cerda Dueñas, a researcher at the Monterrey Institute of Technology who has studied the panda, said that Mexico’s technological demand could encourage China to make a deal, but that López Obrador’s interest in the economy would make the deal “very difficult.”
China temporarily suspended new panda loans during the COVID-19 pandemic, but President Xi Jinping’s government will soon revive it, sending pandas to World Cup host Qatar.
China is Mexico’s second most important trading partner, behind the United States, and the Chinese government has been working to expand its influence in Latin America. The possibility of leaving the area without pandas would be useful in Mexico.
What is not in doubt is the panda’s gravity.
At Chapultepec Zoo there is a panda museum that displays pictures of the animals over the years, stickers of their feet, bits of panda hair and lots of children’s drawings. Shuan Shuan’s final birthday piñata is also available.
But Xin Xin is the real attraction. He received a birthday piñata, shaped like a panda filled with apples and carrots, on July 1st.
One day recently, Juan Vicente Araya from Costa Rica became interested in Xin Xin and his family.
“When we decided to go to Mexico, from the oldest to the youngest, everyone at home came with the dream of being able to see a panda,” Araya said, shaking the head of her young son, who was playing with a panda. panda panda his parents bought him on a trip.
Araya, who works for a company in the United States, said that the first thing her family and friends did when they arrived in Mexico City from Costa Rica was to go to the zoo to see Xin Xin.
“In Latin America we don’t have many opportunities to see pandas,” he said. “The truth is that it was important for us to leave Costa Rica. We are happy to meet him.”