27 Sep 2014


From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 27 September 2014

Giant panda Stolz Gary M
Giant panda by Stolz Gary M, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

They may be cute and cuddly - but giant pandas are big business.

The Chinese government is using the giant panda as a bargaining chip for global trade deals according to John Vidal, The Guardian's environment editor. He told Simon Morton that China rents a breeding pair for $1.2 million a year, and any new-born pandas have to be returned within two years. And then there are added costs like luxury panda houses and all you can eat bamboo shoots - especially if you are in a country like Scotland where bamboo is hard to come by.

"In Edinburgh there's not that much organic bamboo shoots around, so they pay $200,000 a year just to have the right bamboo shoots shipped in from France."

New Zealand hosted two pandas in the late 1980s; borrowed from Australia Xiao Xiao and Fei Fei spent three months at Auckland Zoo.

In 2010 talks began between the New Zealand and Chinese government about the possibility of having two pandas at a cost of $1.29 million a year. However in 2011, talks stalled because it was seen as unjustified spending following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Gallery: pictures of pandas