I guess the pandas are going back to China…

Apparently this trade war between the United States and China is heating up.  No, let me rephrase that.  It’s going to flamethrower mode.

And now it’s possible that China may hit the United States right in the cuteness category.

They could be recalling their pandas from America’s zoos.

And you’re saying to yourself … what’s going on here?

I’ll try to explain.

Giant pandas are endangered creatures, and the Chinese have taken great steps and strides to try to breed the animals and hopefully repopulate them into the wild.  With that in mind, China does allow some of their pandas to exist in United States zoos – they stay in America on a ten-year contract, and if a panda is born in America, it is automatically considered Chinese property.

Many of the baby pandas that are born in America have to return to China after three to five years for breeding purposes – apparently the Chinese have developed better breeding techniques for these animals than have the Americans.  I get that.  I understand this, and I appreciate what the Chinese are doing to keep their national symbol from extinction.

Well, here’s the thing.  Right now pandas exist at three United States zoos – the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at zoos in Memphis and in Atlanta.  Pandas that were part of the San Diego Zoo have already returned to China when that zoo’s contract with the pandas was not renewed.

That’s right – the eternal symbol of roly-poly cuddly cuteness could be on their way back to Beijing.

Now for Bei Bei, the four-year-old panda cub in D.C., he’s going back to China as part of the breeding program to propagate and save the species.  And Bei Bei’s mom, Mei Xiang, could be showing signs of pregnancy (it’s hard to tell with panda bears, they are such confusing creatures), so there might be a cub that could take Bei Bei’s place in the D.C. zoo.  The pandas donated in 1941 and 1972 were considered gifts, and remained in the United States for the remainder of their lives.

But here’s the thing.  Pandas are both a cultural symbol of China and a promotional ambassador of the nation.  Two pandas were given to Richard Nixon and his wife from the Chinese Premier in the early 1970’s.  And in 1941, China sent two pandas to the Bronx Zoo in gratitude for the United States’ assistance to their nation against Japanese occupation.

But the lease on the two adult pandas at the D.C. zoo ends on December 7, and talks haven’t yet started on renewing or extending that lease.  And zoos are caught in the middle – those pandas help generate attendance and tourism revenue for the zoo, which in turn helps to maintain and take care of the animals.

And the way things are going in the U.S. – China trade war, the Chinese could simply end the leases and recall ALL the pandas – adult and baby – back to the Middle Kingdom permanently.

Now what would this mean for people in America?  How would we get our fix of pandas?  How would we survive without their roly-poly bamboo-chomping cuteness?

Well, there are alternatives.  We could start, for example, with a few episodes of the classic Japanese anime Ranma 1/2 – I’d try to explain the plot, but it’s like trying to explain the infield fly rule.

Or … we could go back to episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, when soon-to-be-famous actor Michael Keaton got his early work in front of the camera by dressing up as the Purple Panda.

How about this … from 2005 to 2009, the Albany Patroons had a panda bear as a mascot.  Yep, Lido the Panda.  No, I have no idea why he was named Lido, maybe he listened to Boz Scaggs records while growing up in a nature preserve outside of Guangdong…

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if the pandas go back to China or if they stay here.  I’m fine either way.  I’m sure there are some people who, however, are totally freaking out over the possibility of the pandas leaving America.  It’s probably the same people who have collected panda bear dolls and panda bear plushies and panda bear sweaters and panda bear stickers and panda bear labels on food and panda bear toasters (yes, they make panda bear toasters) and all of that.

In those instances … you’d better make your trip to one of those zoos right now.

That, or pack your bags for a quick trip to Shanghai.  Just sayin’ is all…