A controversy has broken out in Thailand over the possible import of new giant pandas on loan from China. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recently announced that he would ask for a new panda to serve as a “goodwill ambassador” during a planned visit to Beijing in October. Animal rights activists are strictly against it. They argue that pandas usually suffer greatly from relocation and are often not kept species-appropriately in zoos.

There are currently no copies of the cute animals left in the popular holiday destination after the female Lin Hui died unexpectedly at the age of 21 in the Chiang Mai Zoo in April. The giant panda lady was considered an attraction of the zoo in the northern city and attracted millions of visitors over the past 20 years.

The male Chuang Chuang, who was brought to Thailand with Lin Hui in 2003, had already died in 2019. The two had offspring in 2009: daughter Lin Bing was brought to China in 2013 in accordance with the agreement between the countries.

Politician Kanchana Silpa-archa, an adviser to the Thai Ministry of Environment, wrote in a widely viewed message on Facebook: “It is better to let them live in China. I love pandas, I love all animals (…). But if “If we love someone, we should put their happiness above our own.” There is only limited space for the animals in Chiang Mai. “In China there is a garden where pandas can go outside and run around. We don’t have that,” emphasized the animal rights activist.

Pandas are considered symbols of friendship between China and the countries to which they are loaned. There has been “panda diplomacy” for many years, but the animals always remain on loan – as do their offspring.

“Pandas are not objects that can be shipped from country to country,” said Jason Baker, vice president of the animal protection group Peta Asia. “They are intelligent, social animals that form close bonds with their families and friends.” It is “heartbreaking” that Thailand is considering importing new pandas that would then have to live in captivity and “in very small spaces, without natural nutrition and social enrichment.”