Zoo Negara has no control over the placement of Nuan Nuan, the offspring of panda couple Xing Xing and Liang Liang, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said today.
The natural resources and environment minister said he was surprised to hear complaints regarding the baby panda’s purportedly high costs, adding that Zoo Negara officials never raised the issue with the government.
“If this is the case Zoo Negara will have to speak to us. Any idea of returning the baby panda after two years will not be decided by zoo or even my ministry.
“I have to refer to the government for this,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted, stressing that the pandas were a vital part of Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with China.
He said that as long as Zoo Negara did not convey their concerns to the government officially, any issues with the cost of keeping the panda will not be addressed.
Earlier this week, Malaysian Zoological Society president Datuk Seri Zaharin Md Arif was quoted as saying that Zoo Negara did not plan to extend Nuan Nuan’s tenure here beyond the expiry of the agreement with China next year.
He was reported to have said that this was due to the high cost of maintenance if the period was extended by two years as agreed between Malaysia and China, citing a lump-sum rental payment of US$600,000 (RM2.4 million) and insurance of RM200,000.
Malaysia received Xing Xing and Liang Liang from the Chinese government on May 21, 2014 to mark the 40th anniversary of bilateral relations.
The pandas are part of the so-called “Panda Diplomacy” practised by China in which it sends the creatures to friendly nations as a diplomatic gift. The custom traces back to the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century.
Liang Liang gave birth to the baby panda on August 18 last year, with the cub first shown to visitors at the zoo on November 17, after it was quarantined for more than three months.
SHAZWAN MUSTAFA KAMAL