By Zhang Zhizhong-Giant pandas are both China’s national treasures and symbols of wildlife conservation. As a precious wealth given by nature to man, they have been living on earth for over 8 million years, despite the extinction of many other species during the period.
The cute creature has many fans around the world. Wherever they go, the black-and-white bundles of joy would trigger a craze.
In 2011, Yangguang, or “Sunshine,” and Tiantian, or “Sweetie,” were brought to the UK as part of a cooperative research project and were warmly welcomed by the British. There was a long line in front of the panda house to see the cute creatures from China. It was interesting that the craze even inspired envy from their penguin neighbors who threw their dung balls at the crowd.
Because of the world’s desire to see the creatures, giant pandas, for a long time, have been playing a unique role in China’s politics, economy and diplomacy as irreplaceable goodwill ambassadors of friendship.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, giant pandas have been given by China as a national gift to many countries, including the former Soviet Union, the US, UK, France and Mexico.
From the mid-1980s, China had been sending giant pandas overseas for short tours rather than giving them as presents. Since 1994, the animals have been sent abroad for scientific research, while the pandas themselves and their offspring still belong to China.
Since international cooperation on pandas was first launched in 1996, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) has established scientific research relations with 14 zoos of 12 countries. Currently, a total of 30 giant pandas have been sent abroad, giving birth to 18 panda cubs.
With the efforts of domestic and foreign scientists, crucial achievements have been made from international collaborative research on breeding, physiology and diseases of pandas. Many papers have been published for its conservation.
Furthermore, the fund for collaborative research effectively accelerated the building of panda protection zones across the nation, especially those below national level, which promoted conservation and the restoration of habitats for giant pandas.
Training and exchanges on heredity and pathology of giant pandas also improved the practitioners’ skills in the country.
The development of such international cooperation has not only strengthened collaborative research of domestic and overseas research institutes on giant pandas but has also propelled the conservation and management of giant pandas and met the world’s aspirations for the animal.
The goodwill ambassadors allow people of the world to know more about China. For example, the Dujiangyan Base, Bifengxia Base and Shenshuping Base of the CCRCGP attract thousands of foreign visitors every year. They gain firsthand knowledge of the local conditions, customs, and humanistic culture by traveling to the hometown of giant pandas, which further deepens their cognition of and affection for China.
In the future, CCRCGP will continue to introduce the world’s advanced technologies, ideas and mature experiences to China through the exchange platform built for international cooperation on giant pandas.
In addition, it will seek broader cooperation on conservation, management, cultural construction, public education and ecotourism with overseas partners, and thus contribute more to the dissemination of Chinese culture and the construction of an ecological civilization.
(The author is secretary of the Party committee of CCRCGP)