The Chinese government has announced new regulations restricting the lending of giant pandas to foreign zoos, the official Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.
The move comes in response to environmentalist claims that China is profiting from foreign exhibits of the endangered species.The Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens ruled that only non-commercial exhibitions will be allowed and that no foreign companies will be allowed to profit from showing the animals, Xinhua said.
Foreign zoos holding exhibitions will have to contribute funds or technical assistance to the association for protecting pandas and other rare animals, it said. Foreign exhibitions must also be approved by the Chinese government.
There are fewer than 1,000 pandas living in the wild, all in remote areas of southwest China. About 60 pandas live in Chinese zoos.
In recent years, the Association of Zoological Gardens has loaned pandas to zoos in North America, Europe and Japan. The zoos, ensured of increased revenues from the popular animals, have paid China $500,000 and more for the right to borrow a panda pair.
The World Wildlife Fund and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums last month asked a U.S. district court to halt shipment of two giant pandas who were to be put on display in Toledo, Ohio as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebration.
The court rejected the suit.
The Chinese association also announced tighter controls over the lending of golden monkeys, another endangered species found in China.