Memphis Zoo Will Import Two Giant Pandas
A permit to import two captive-bred giant pandas from China has been issue to the Memphis Zoological Gardens in Tennessee under the The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) giant panda policy.
By studying the two pandas to be loaned by China, the Memphis Zoo, in partnership with Mississippi State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Texas A& M, will research the dietary needs of pandas in captivity.
The primary goal of the FWS policy is to ensure that permitted activities directly contribute to the survival and recovery of pandas in the wild. Giant pandas are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international treaty that seeks to monitor and regulate wildlife and plant trade through a system of permits.
As outlined in the Zoo’s permit application, a major portion of the conservation research will focus on the panda’s dietary needs to assist China in making the best choices for habitat conservation. Working with their Chinese colleagues on both field and captive research projects, the Zoo hopes to gain a better understanding of the species’ nutritional ecology and foraging habits.
In China, the field work will be done in the Qinling Mountains, the giant panda’s natural habitat. There researchers will examine available resources as well as environmental and physiological limitations for the species in an effort to understand why the panda’s diet relies so disproportionately on bamboo.
To date there are seven pandas on loan from China to U.S. zoos as permitted under the Service’s Giant Panda policy: two pandas at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia; two at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; and three at the San Diego Zoo in California. Hua Mei, a female panda, was captive bred and born at the San Diego Zoo and will soon be returned to China as stipulated in the policy.
“The Service views permits as conservation tools for building partnerships at home and abroad and for enhancing our ability to support new wildlife conservation initiatives,” said Kenneth Stansell, the Service’s Assistant Director for International Affairs. “This permit is a terrific addition to our panda conservation toolbox because it supports the Memphis Zoo and the country of China as they work together on a variety of innovative conservation projects that we anticipate will lead to a more secure future for pandas in the wild.”