Lin Ping, the only giant panda born in Thailand, will head to China to choose her mate before returning for a 15-year-long stay with her new companion.
“Thanks to the close ties between the two countries and discussions between the leaders, China has agreed to let Lin Ping grow up in Thailand,” Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said yesterday.
He said this was a special exemption, because without it Lin Ping would have to return to China.
This superstar panda was born to Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, who have also been lent to Thailand by the Chinese government. The panda family has been living at the Chiang Mai Zoo, proving to be a powerful magnet for tourists.
Lin Ping’s parents came to Thailand in 2003 under a 10-year contract and were scheduled to return to China in October.
“But now China has agreed to let the pair stay in Thailand until Lin Ping returns with her mate,” Surapong said.
Lin Ping is set to leave Thailand on October 12 to prepare for the mating season, which runs from February to May.
“China has promised to do what it can to find a suitable mate for Lin Ping and send them both back to Thailand within a year,” the foreign minister said.
China has been charging US$250,000 (Bt7.5 million) per year for each giant panda lent to Thailand. This annual fee will rise to $500,000 per animal once Chuang Chuang’s and Lin Hui’s stay is extended. When Lin Ping returns with her mate, the fee will rise to $1 million per panda.
“The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has agreed to the increase,” Surapong said.