Columbus Zoo hopes to host Chinese pandas


COLUMBUS — Giant pandas could be in the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s future.

Phil Pikelny, the president of the zoo board, said last week that he has begun talking with officials in China about bringing pandas here.

China, the only country where pandas live in the wild, has controlled their exportation for more than 80 years.

Four U.S. zoos and 16 zoos in other countries have pandas on loan from China.

“They’re considered a national treasure,” said David Towne, president of the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation, which makes sure that panda loans conform to Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards.

The loan process is “fraught with intricate policies and politics” and takes years — and a lot of luck — to accomplish, Mr. Towne said. “You’re not going to just walk in and get a pair of pandas,” he said.

Mr. Pikelny, an executive of The Dispatch Printing Co., visited China last month with a Franklin County delegation and met with an official in charge of the country’s zoos.

“She invited us to visit the panda breeding center and invited us to have a panda visit Columbus,” he said. “She said they’d like to work with the zoo on breeding issues.”