The flood of emotion was obvious when the National Zoo took to its Facebook page in September, to announce that its new, week-old panda had died: “We are broken-hearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub.” The unnamed cub’s mother, Mei Xiang, raised the initial alarm with a distress call and although CPR and other measures were attempted, the cub still passed away. The birth of the panda cub had captured the imagination of Americans – understandable when one considers there are only 300 pandas left in breeding zones and zoos around the planet. And there’s more at stake when you add Panda diplomacy to the mix: the Chinese have been sending pandas to other nations as a sign of gratitude ever since the Tang Dynasty, dating back to A.D. 618. In the U.S., the first panda couple arrived after President Richard Nixon’s landmark 1972 visit to China. Famously, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing lived at the National Zoo for over 20 years.
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