San Diego Zoo officially closes its panda habitat

SAN DIEGO (KABC) -- Monday was the final day the public was able to see the remaining two giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo.

The zoo is officially closing its panda habitat and Panda Cam as they prepare to send 27-year-old Bai Yun and her 6-year-old son Xiao Liwu back to China later this spring. A third panda, Gao Gao, was repatriated last October.

The zoo first acquired giant pandas more than 30 years ago through a loan program with the Chinese government. Since then, the zoo's conservation researchers have worked with the Chinese government to increase the country's giant panda population by more than 2,000 bears. These efforts have led to the International Union for Conservation of Nature to downgrade the giant panda's threatened status from "endangered" to "vulnerable." This means they are now at a lower risk of going extinct.

"The panda program we began together demonstrates how powerful these collaborative efforts can be,'' said San Diego Zoo Global President and CEO Douglas Myers. "We are extremely grateful to China for sharing the pandas with us and offering us the chance to serve this species in a leadership role.''

"Going forward, the zoo's conservationists plan to continue to work with their Chinese colleagues to boost the wild panda population. Although we are sad to see these pandas go, we have great hopes for the future,'' said San Diego Zoo Global COO Shawn Dixon. "Working with our colleagues in China, San Diego Zoo Global is ready to make a commitment for the next stage of our panda program.''

City News Service contributed to this report.
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