- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Whether Mei Xiang or her male counterpart, Tian Tian, remain in the District for the next attempt is something zoo officials and their Chinese partners will consider in coming months.

Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said a discussion between the zoo and China would be scheduled to discuss the future of the giant pandas.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in Washington in December 2000 as part of a $10 million exchange agreement with the Chinese government that ends in December 2015.

The two replaced the zoo’s first pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, who produced five cubs that did not survive.

In 2005, Mei Xiang was impregnated via artificial insemination and gave birth to Tai Shan, a male cub who became a D.C. celebrity for his outdoor antics before he was moved to a new home in China in 2010.

Ms. Baker-Masson said the five-year exchange agreement is about halfway through, at a point where officials can consider exchanging one or both of the giant pandas if they are “found unsuitable” for the panda breeding program.

Among the many things to consider are the best interests of the pandas, conservation efforts, the population of giant pandas in China and the zoo’s breeding and research program, Ms. Baker-Masson said.

“There’s been no decision on the future of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and whether they leave or remain,” Ms. Baker-Masson said.