Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Economics of Pandas

Po: “Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.
Panda: [eating] “Don't tell monkey.

Tai Lung: You can't defeat me! You... you're just a big... fat... panda!
[He throws a weak punch, Po catches his hand by the finger]
Po: I'm not a big fat panda. I'm THE big fat panda.

  [after completing his training]
Shifu: You have done well, Panda.
Po: Done well? Done well? Ha, I've done awesome!
[Elbows Shifu]
Shifu: The sign of a true hero is humility. But, yes, you have done...
[elbows Po, causing him to stagger]
Shifu: ... awesome.
[They laugh]

Photos: Resident celebrities, Wang Wang and Funi, at Adelaide Zoo. 

A massive enclosure which you enter with great fanfare (and orderly, ticketed queuing) through bamboo stands and reproduction Chinese pillars and arches.  They're big guys - not really as cuddle-able as the soft toy equivalent. 

China has supplied giant pandas - on loan - to nine countries in the last 50 years - giving them a huge tourism boost.  The practice - dubbed "panda diplomacy" - has seen visitor numbers soar at the zoos where the rare animals are sent.  Apparently when Adelaide Zoo gained the pandas, visitor numbers went up 70 per cent.  They are an obvious advertising motif all around the city. 

However, they come at a significant cost to the public purse.  The South Australian Government invested $18.9 million in the new entrance and fence, including a conference centre, but the zoo still had to find $8 million for the panda exhibit from sponsors, donors and a bank loan (which will take a least a decade to pay off). The Federal Government is also paying $1 million each year to the Chinese Government for the international breeding program that aims to save the critically endangered species.  The zoo-nomics of pandas.  Complex.


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