From the S&S archives

Giant panda, in Frankfurt, can't slide through loophole to reach America

Chi-Chi the panda is offered a traditional "welcome to Germany" snack by an airline employee at the Frankfurt airport. Pandas are basically herbivores, so bamboo shoots would have been a better idea.



NEW YORK — The loophole which let a pair of Tibetan dogs into the U.S. for a Presidential secretary hasn't stretched far enough to let in a giant panda for any American zoo, an American dealer and a zoo official said.

A dispatch from Frankfurt suggested the panda which arrived there from Communist China would be sold eventually to an American zoo.

But Frederick J. Zeehandelaar, the dealer whose agent owns the panda, a female named Chi-Chi, said he'd been batting his head against Treasury regulation for months. There is no way it can be done. The Bronx Zoo official said it had been turned down by the State Department in its attempt to acquire the panda.

Zeehandelaar said he didn't know what loophole was used to bring in  a pair of Tibetan dogs for former Presidential Secretary Thomas E. Stephens. "All I know is that it's at the discretion of the Treasury Department," he said, and they've refused to admit the panda for him and for several zoo applicants.

U.S. law prohibits the purchase, directly or indirectly, by an American citizen, of anything originating in Communist China. There's no other way for any American zoo to get a panda. They're all Chinese. And there's no male in captivity to father a baby bear that could be born outside of China, Zeehandelaar said.

The Bronx Zoo's last panda died in 1951. Pandas in the Chicago and St. Louis zoos have died since then. The bear in Frankfurt and one in Moscow — both females — are the only ones presently known to be outside China. Two more females are known to be in Peiping.

The appealing black-and-white bear is owned, Zeehandelaar said, by his agent, who is not an American, and who acquired it in Peiping in trade for a number of other animals. He said the animal is in the Frankfurt Zoo on a rental basis.

The zoo director, Dr. Bernard Grzimek, said he didn't think he could afford to buy it and thought it would be sold to an American zoo.

Zeehandelaar said there was no provision he could find in U.S. regulations which would change the panda from Chinese to German, no matter how long it lived there. "If we could do that, it would have been in Canada months ago waiting out the period," he said.

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