Zoo extends panda farewell celebration 2 more days

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Zoo announced an extension Wednesday of its farewell celebration for two giant pandas that are scheduled to be returned to China later this year.

The zoo originally planned to close its panda habitat and, consequently, its Panda Cam, on April 27. Now, residents will have two more days to view 27-year-old Bai Yun and her 6-year-old son Xiao Liwu before the habitat is closed to zoo visitors and Panda Cam viewers.

Zoo officials said the pandas' stay in San Diego was extended due to overwhelming support from the zoo's visitors.

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu are the zoo's last two pandas on loan from the Chinese government. A third giant panda, Gao Gao, was repatriated to China last October.

The zoo's conservation team plans to continue its efforts to boost the world's wild panda population after the two remaining pandas return to China. The zoo's conservation research has helped the giant panda population in China grow to more than 2,000 bears since pandas first arrived at the zoo more than 30 years ago.

"The San Diego Zoo was honored to be chosen by conservationists in China to work with them to develop a new model for species conservation," San Diego Zoo Global President and CEO Douglas Myers said last month when the zoo announced the pandas would return to China. "The panda program we began together demonstrates how powerful these collaborative efforts can be."

The zoo will sell commemorative items to celebrate Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu through April 29. Proceeds from those sales will benefit the zoo's panda conservation efforts. Zoo visitors can also hang a tag on the zoo's Giant Panda Friendship Wall, located in the zoo's Panda Canyon exhibit, to show their appreciation for the species.

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