Oakland Zoo Prepares For Rare Pandas
Apr. 4 - KGO (KGO) -- It's been at least eight years since city leaders first announced their plans to bring a rare giant panda exhibit to the Oakland Zoo. The arrival of a young male and female from China would make Oakland only the fifth American city to host such rare animals. But, they're still not here.
In May 2004, Oakland leaders announced a letter of agreement with China to bring a pair of rare giant pandas to the Oakland Zoo. It came after six years of lobbying.
Henry Chang, Oakland City Council: "The whole world -- everybody wants pandas, and they gave them to us."
Three years later, the area set aside for the pandas sits covered in plastic. Nearby, there are plenty of interesting creatures, some apparently eager for new neighbors, but no pandas.
Henry Chang, Oakland City Council: "You have to develop a friendship, and it takes a long time and trust."
Next week, Councilman Henry Chang will return to China to try to close a deal, he concedes it has taken longer than expected.
Councilman Henry Chang: "All of the delays, the so-called delays, is really on the U.S. side."
It hasn't helped, other American cities upset Chinese officials with their gaudy exhibits.
Councilman Henry Chang: "China is sometimes unhappy with the U.S. for spoiling the pandas too much -- like air conditioning the rocks for the pandas to get on so it's cool."
China doesn't want that in Oakland, which is a good thing for the city, dropping the original $7 million dollar estimate, to less than $2 million dollars.
Dr. Joel Parrott, Oakland Zoo Director: "It's actually more comparable to what we've spent on other projects here at the zoo."
The zoo must build the panda exhibit before seeking final permits from the American and Chinese governments. Construction is set to begin this summer. A bamboo farm will go in nearby.
Dr. Joel Parrott, Oakland Zoo Director: "They generally eat 30 pounds of bamboo, per panda, per day."
The zoo will also perform genetic research with U.C. Davis. Those involved in the process remain confident the zoo will be home to a pair of pandas soon. Perhaps as soon as next year.
Councilman Henry Chang: "Hopefully there will be a Chinese New Year's present from China."
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