Ask a Zookeeper: Panda Exchanges


As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on Jobstr.com--a website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: How do zoos negotiate animal exchanges (like when you hear about the SD zoo getting 3 pandas from China for a season or something)? -padres123

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A: Hi Padres! Animal exchanges are done for a variety of reasons, including reproduction and genetic diversity. In the case of giant pandas, zoos often acquire them to inspire guests to care about issues like wildlife conservation. (They obviously appreciate the increase in zoo attendance as well. ;))

Nowadays, there are probably less than 1,000 pandas remaining in the wild. Only 110 or so live in zoos, and just 16 of these are housed outside China. The Chinese government regulates the export of pandas to zoos in other countries, and these exchanges can be incredibly complicated.

The crux of the exchange is monetary, of course, but many other factors may be at play. Sometimes, the zoos exchange other animals during the trade as well, and often the money must be used in a particular way--i.e., to support panda habitat restoration or research. Pandas can only be loaned for a certain amount of time, and very high standards of care must be met to ensure the panda is put into a thriving, dynamic environment.

Hope this is helpful!