in pictures :: history of giant pandas in UK

In December 1938, five giant pandas were smuggled out of China to England. Four of them
 were bought by London Zoo. Photographer Bert Hardy's son, Mike Hardy, poses for a photo
 with Ming one of the pandas at London Zoo

Ming, one of four pandas bought by London Zoo was featured in propaganda to boost
 British morale during World War II

1946: Young Steffi introduces Pandy the toy panda to Unity the real giant panda, 
(formerly Lien Ho) at Regents Park Zoo, London

Twenty years later, in 1958, came a female panda Chi-Chi. She was originally 
destined for an American zoo, but at the time Washington had banned all trade with 
Communist China. Chi-Chi was branded "communist goods" and was refused entry to 
the United States

Chi-Chi became the scene-stealing, star attraction of London Zoo, and remained 
the best-loved animal in Britain until her death. As the only giant panda in the west, 
Chi-Chi was the inspiration behind Peter Scott's design for a symbol for the World 
Wildlife Fund

She was greatly pampered, and often indulged with chocolates by visitors

The Zoological Society of London had previously ruled that they would not encourage 
the collection of wild pandas, in the interests of conservation. But since it was pointed 
out that Chi-Chi had already been collected, her purchase with assistance from Granada 
TV was approved

In the late 1960s her fruitless liaison with Moscow Zoo's An-An made regular front page 
news. When she died in July 1972, Chi-Chi was widely mourned

1966: London Zoo's giant panda Chi-Chi seen here back in her quarters after her 
unsuccessful mating expedition to Moscow

In 1974 Prime Minister Edward Heath returned from China with two new residents for 
London Zoo, female panda Ching-Ching and her male companion Chia-Chia - a result 
of China's panda diplomacy initiative

Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia, however with all of the technology and best intentions of London Zoo, failed to produce any offspring

Chia-Chia the panda was given to Britain by the Chinese Government in 1974

Ching-Ching needed almost constant medical attention, and after her death, Chia-Chia
 left in 1988 on a breeding loan to Mexico City Zoo, which has a good record of panda 
breeding. Ching Ching (seen here on the right) with Chia Chia after her return following
 an illness

In the autumn of 1991 Ming-Ming arrived and was followed by a male, Bao Bao, a loan 
from Berlin Zoo in hope that they could produce offspring. However, Bao Bao didn't like
 Ming Ming. Instead the couple fought savagely, shattering Britain's high hopes for 
that extreme rarity, a baby panda born in London

Nowadays almost all pandas exported abroad are on loan rather than donated – and often 
their rates are pricey.

Some fabulous photos

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Rainbow Eucalyptus

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