Pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni to stay in Adelaide zoo under Labor plan

PM criticises opposition’s pledge for five years’ more funding, saying his priority right now is Queensland’s floods

A Labor government would spend $1.3m a year for Adelaide zoo to keep two giant pandas that have failed to produce any offspring since their arrival at the zoo almost 10 years ago.

The opposition committed on Sunday to five years of funding for Wang Wang and Fu Ni, who have been on loan from China, if elected this year.

But the prime minister, Scott Morrison, criticised the timing of the announcement, saying his focus was on the destruction caused by Queensland’s floods.

“I have been talking to [South Australian premier] Steven Marshall about this, but I’ll simply say this: my priority at the moment actually – with all due respect to people in South Australia and pandas – is cattle lying dead on properties in north Queensland,” he told reporters at a press conference in Burnie, Tasmania.

“That’s where my focus is right now. If the Labor party wants to focus on pandas, that’s fine. I’m focused on dead cattle on the ground in north Queensland.”

At an announcement in Adelaide, Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said the pandas were a tourism drawcard for Adelaide and keeping them would be good for Australia’s bilateral relationship with China.

“Wang Wang and Fu Ni are one of our most popular attractions. South Australian kids, Australian kids, kids from around the world who come here with their families, love the pandas,” she said.

“And we know that without funding, unfortunately the pandas would have to go home in November.”

Later on Sunday, she said it was “appalling that Mr Morrison is playing politics with the terrible floods in Queensland”.

“We all stand with those affected by these disasters and he knows that,” she said. “If he actually listened to South Australians he might understand why today’s announcement matters to our community and to our tourism industry.”

From 2015 to 2019, the government committed $9.1m for the breeding program.

The amount is nearly double what it committed for its recovery fund for Australian threatened species. The government claims it has spent more than $255m in total on Australian threatened species protection and recovery.

Last September the zoo suspected Fu Ni was pregnant after two artificial inseminations. Attempts to get the couple to mate during last year’s 36-hour fertility window were unsuccessful.

“It’s quite possible Fu Ni was at one stage pregnant but the window has now passed during which time she would have given birth,” said the zoo’s SA senior veterinarian, Ian Smith. “Hormonal and behavioural signs indicate she experienced either pseudo pregnancy or an unsuccessful pregnancy.”


Lisa Cox

The GuardianTramp

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