PUTRAJAYA: Any decision to return giant panda to China must take into account the agreement signed between Malaysia and China, said Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah.
He said the government took note on calls from the public and associations for the giant panda to be returned to China due to the high maintenance costs.
The Malaysia-China Giant Panda International Conservation Agreement through the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) was signed for a period of 10 years starting in 2014, the year of arrival of giant panda couple, Xing Xing and Liang Liang in Malaysia.
“China’s agreement to lend the giant pandas to Malaysia proves the special relationship between the two countries since diplomatic relations were established in 1974,” he said in a statement today.
Through an agreement signed between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Zoological Society (MZS) on June 22, 2013, the government is responsible for developing the Giant Panda Conservation Centre (PKGP) at the Zoo Negara and financing the annual panda conservation fees, he said.
MZS is responsible for insurance coverage, panda offspring fees, repatriation costs as well as operating costs, he said.
“However, as a sign of concern, the government has financed the panda cubs’ fees and the repatriation cost of the first cub, Nuan Nuan in 2017, as well as the cost of having an expert from China stationed at PKGP,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shamsul Anuar said the second cub, Yi Yi, who turned two on Jan 14, should have been sent back to China in April but had to be postponed until now as the conservation centre in that country was still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The ministry will repatriate Yi Yi as soon as possible once the date agreed by China,” he said, adding that every giant panda cub should be sent back to China upon the age of two.