SF Zoo gears up for giant pandas as it plans for multi-million dollar facility

Luz Pena Image
Saturday, April 20, 2024
SF Zoo gears up for pandas as it plans for special facility
The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens will receive the giant pandas as part of China's Panda Diplomacy program.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's official. Two giant pandas are coming to San Francisco.

It's an accomplishment over a decade in the making that involved Mayor London Breed formally asking the Chinese President on the tarmac last November after San Francisco hosted the APEC summit and panda experts from China checking the zoo this year. Now it's finally happening.

"San Francisco is absolutely thrilled to be welcoming giant pandas to the San Francisco zoo," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens will receive the giant pandas as part of China's Panda Diplomacy program. When the city hosted the panda for a three month period in 1984 and 1985, the zoo had over one million visitors.

RELATED: San Francisco Zoo to receive giant pandas from China, Mayor Breed announces

"We are so thrilled for the return of the giant panda after all these years to the San Francisco zoo and gardens. As you know ,the giant panda represents and symbolizes collaboration and also bridge devise between cultural differences," said Vitus Leung, deputy director for the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.

The latest estimates indicate there are less than 2,200 giant pandas in the world today. The organization, Pandas International, said San Francisco's cool weather will be great for the pandas.

"They are going to need an enclosure to get out of the elements. They are going to need a large yard so they can walk around and have some space. They will need some enrichment activities," said Suzanne Braden, director of Pandas International.

The San Francisco Zoo's deputy director confirmed they've been gearing up for the pandas return.

MORE: Business, tourism, pandas: SF Mayor London Breed shares agenda ahead of China trip

"The renovations have to take place before they can come," said Leung.

Pandas in San Francisco will come with a hefty price tag. Before the pandemic, the estimated cost to build a new facility for the pandas at the zoo was estimated at $25 million.

"It's definitely worth the investment to bring San Francisco Zoo really on the map as a global attraction," said Cassandra Costello, SF Travel Association executive vice president of public policy and external affairs.

The mayor's visit to China is not only bringing the news of the pandas, but also more tourism from China.

MORE: London Breed in China: Here's where SF mayor will go, who she'll meet

"Our team is actually in China as well and our CEO and tourism team is in China doing exactly that. Talking to airlines, increasing airlifts from San Francisco to China," said Costello.

Several San Franciscans view giant pandas coming to the city is a win.

"Good for the relationship in the countries and good for San Francisco," said San Francisco resident, Dan Gold.

Pandas still belong to China and they can request for the pandas to be returned any time.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live