San Francisco Zoo Prepares To Welcome Giant Pandas Amid Controversy

As Zoo Atlanta prepares to send the last giant pandas in the United States back to China, the San Francisco Zoo is gearing up to welcome a pair of the beloved bears in 2025.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced last month that the city had been selected to host two giant pandas, with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) agreeing to collaborate with officials in the Bay Area to prepare for the animals’ arrival.

“San Francisco is absolutely thrilled that we will be welcoming Giant Pandas to our San Francisco Zoo,” Breed said in a statement.

However, the mayor’s plan to use private donations to fund the pandas’ stay has run into opposition from the city’s Board of Supervisors, according to local news outlet KGO-TV.

The San Francisco Zoo previously hosted pandas in 1984 and 1985, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a meeting with business executives in the city last November, referred to the bears as “envoys of friendship.”

The panda exchange program between China and the United States began under an agreement brokered by then-President Nixon in 1972, which led to several pandas being loaned to U.S. zoos for research purposes.

As the last pandas in the U.S. prepare to leave Zoo Atlanta, the potential arrival of new bears in San Francisco has sparked both excitement and controversy, highlighting the ongoing fascination with these iconic animals and the complexities of international animal diplomacy.