Pandas Are Big Business for Zoos

ByABC News
January 10, 2001, 1:55 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 10 -- It has to be that face. Giant pandas remind us of our own children, with their big eyes and round cheeks. Or maybe its the way they play with their food. Whatever the reason, people are fascinated by them.

This morning, people waited at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for as long as four hours to see Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, two giant pandas, make their public debut today. Excited reporters turned the panda house into well, a zoo.

Even in the warm, fuzzy world of animal conservation, you do see dollar signs. The zoo is paying China $10 million for the privilege of keeping the pandas for 10 years.

Profits Expected to Exceed $1.2 Million

Washington zoo managers think theyll sell $1.2 million in panda merchandise. Thats important, because even nonprofit zoos have to make money.

Kids can take home little plushes, panda backpacks; we have panda toasters that put the face of a panda on every piece of toast that you put in there, says Megan Winokur, publicist for Zoo Atlanta, which has two pands of its own.