RTL Today – China will replace Australia’s popular giant pandas

China will loan Australia new “cute” giant pandas to replace a popular pair that has not produced offspring in more than a decade, visiting Prime Minister Li Qiang announced on Sunday.

Adelaide Zoo has been home to Wang Wang and Fu Ni since 2009, when they were loaned by China as part of a global conservation program that also serves as a tool for “panda diplomacy”.

Breeding panda cubs is a notoriously difficult task for the low-sex creatures and hopes of a pregnancy in Adelaide, including through the use of artificial insemination, have been repeatedly dashed.

As one of the hairy giants played with a strip of tree in the background, Li delivered the news that they are going home.

“Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been away from home for 15 years – I think they have missed their home very much – so they will return to China before the end of the year,” the prime minister said.

“But what I can tell you is that we will deliver a new pair of equally beautiful, sweet and adorable pandas as soon as possible.”

China would provide Australia with candidates to choose from, said Li, who landed in Adelaide on Saturday for a four-day trip to mend fences after Beijing lifted a series of trade sanctions on major Australian exports.

The announcement is a nod to Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s efforts to stabilize Australia’s relationship with China following a diplomatic rift with the former Conservative government.

Li said he recalled Australia’s foreign minister reminding him twice during a visit to Beijing last November that the panda loan deal would expire later this year.

“We have made this announcement to comply with the minister’s wishes,” he said.

Adelaide is Wong’s hometown and she said her own children would be “very happy” with the news.

“It’s good for the economy, it’s good for jobs in South Australia, it’s good for tourism and it’s a symbol of goodwill, and we thank you,” she said.

According to environmental organization WWF, there are an estimated 1,860 giant pandas left in the wild.

But the animals, which were removed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s endangered species list in 2016, continue to face serious threats from habitat loss and fragmentation.