Ben and I spent Tuesday at the San Diego Zoo. The zoo has an extensive collection of animals from all over the globe, but the Pandas draw unprecedented attention and for good reason. They're impressive to view first-hand, especially considering their endangered status.
I was suprised to learn that Pandas in U.S. zoos, as well as any offspring born, belong to the country of China. (Four zoos in the US have Pandas; San Diego, Washington, DC, Atlanta and Memphis.) The zoos 'rent' the Pandas for a million dollars a year... and if there are any offspring born, the zoo pays an additional $600,000 'baby tax' as well. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0313_060313_pandas.html
Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, the first two pandas in a U.S. zoo, were presented as a gift to the United States in 1972 by the Chinese government. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving... (or taking, as it were?!?)
Hi Mem... the Flamingo picture above is for you!