Sichuan aims to end 'panda diplomacy'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am

The nation's renowned 'panda diplomacy' could soon become history as the Sichuan legislature is planning to introduce a law that would stop the animals being sent to other countries as gifts.

The provincial congress has listed the proposed legislation - which would ban all exports of pandas - in its working calendar for this year, according to a report on Sichuan Online, a Web site run by the official Sichuan Daily.

About 1,000 pandas, which account for about 80 per cent of all on the mainland, live in natural habitats in Sichuan.

While the proposed legislation will likely forbid the province from giving pandas to other countries, it is expected to allow interested nations to still borrow the endangered animals for less than two years.

The proposed law comes amid increasing concerns over the giant pandas' low reproduction rate, despite the government's propagation efforts.

Mainland conservation programmes last year saw the birth of 12 pandas, but only nine survived. One of the survivors was conceived naturally, while the other births resulted from artificial insemination.

Pandas are known for their low sex drive and artificial insemination has become the main method for breeding the animals.

Only 40 per cent of artificial inseminations resulted in the birth of cubs last year, the report said, quoting Zhang Anju, the director of the China Giant Pandas Breeding Technology Committee.

Beijing has been criticised for exploiting the animals through so-called panda diplomacy in which they are offered to foreign governments as gestures of goodwill.

Animal rights activists within and outside the mainland say many of the pandas sent overseas died soon after their arrival in their new homes, with very few able to breed outside China.