No pandas? Yep. Soon that is going to be the reality at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

I lived just outside of the nation’s capital in 1972 when two 18-month-old pandas (Ling-Ling, a female, and Hsing-Hsing, a male)  were first given to the U.S. by China.

Kae feeding an apple to a panda In China in 2011.

Anytime people would come visit us in Virginia the zoo was a must-see because of the pandas. They’ve been my favorite animal ever since then.

Several years ago I was back in Washington and the one thing I wanted to do before revisiting monuments-museums and seeing new ones was to go see the pandas.

When I was in China a decade-plus ago, I was even able to hold a young panda. Wow—what an experience.

So, to think the national zoo will be without these black and white animals saddens me.

The three pandas at the zoo are on loan, and will be returning to China in early December. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, both 25 , are heading back because of their age. Their 3-year-old son, Xiao Qi Ji, is wanted because he is close to breeding age.

The U.S. and China have a deal that any cub born to pandas on loan here must be sent to China by age 4, when they can start to breed.

Whether there will be future pandas from China at the National Zoo remains to be seen. It would be a shame if politics got in the way of panda exchanges.

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