Two pandas at the Ouwehands Zoo in the central Dutch town of Rhenen celebrated the fourth birthdays of their two giant pandas on Tuesday (August 8), treating them to a three-layered cake of panda goodies.
That was just one expense on top of many zoos around the world have to pay when they get pandas.
It has to do with a little something called panda diplomacy. Every panda in the world, even those born in overseas zoos, belongs to the Chinese government.
Controlling the world’s supply of pandas is a way for the Chinese regime to spread its soft power.
Panda diplomacy began in the 1950s. China gave 23 pandas to 9 different countries in three decades—the highest profile being two given by Mao Zedong to Richard Nixon after his historic visit to China in 1972.
But then Chinese officials realized, why give pandas as gifts when you can just rent them out instead?
China gives zoos around the world a maximum 10-year lease on panda pairs. The cost is a million dollars per year for each pair of pandas, paid directly to the Chinese government.
Plus, if they have a baby, you have to pay the Chinese government a baby tax of $600,000—not including the expenses related to actually getting the pandas to breed, since they have the libido of 100-year-old sea turtles. Then there’s the cost of round-the-clock care, bamboo, and web-hosting for your panda cam, and of course, baking a panda birthday cake. And if a panda dies in your care, you’ll owe the Chinese government another $400,000.
So happy birthday to the pandas Xing Ya and Wu Wen! Hopefully the zoo will make its money back on their investment.