Good Afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here.
Thank you to the National Zoo and Director Dennis Kelly, and to the Smithsonian Institution and Secretary, Dr. Wayne Clough, for inviting me. I am delighted to be here.
It is inspiring to see this strong little cub. Thanks to the webcams, the world has been able to see her take her first steps and grow. Congratulations to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo, and the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda on this addition to the family. We all feel like proud parents as we see her grow up before our eyes.
The panda program has become a symbol of the cooperation between the United States and China. I would like to acknowledge China’s meaningful gestures embodied by this program over many years and to thank Ambassador Cui for being here today.
China has a highly successful giant panda breeding program, and we have learned much from each other in this effort. This partnership has also served a greater purpose – helping save these giant pandas. In just a few years this panda will join her extended relatives in China to continue to grow the global population of pandas.
The United States has long advocated for the kind of science-based captive breeding program that led to this success. The Smithsonian’s efforts in this regard have had spectacular results with a number of endangered species, and with each of these new arrivals we learn more about how to improve and replicate captive breeding successes here and around the world.
Captive breeding programs are only part of the picture. We must also ensure that we are conserving the habitats where pandas and other endangered species live so that wild populations can be sustainable.
Pandas like Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and now this little panda help people from all over the world to learn about these fascinating animals and understand how important it is to take care of nature and the natural habitats around us. For example, the 2006 video of a baby panda sneezing has been viewed nearly 200 million times on YouTube.
It is hard to imagine that for many years giant pandas were killed by poachers for their fur and were frequently the victims of wildlife trafficking. But fortunately the government of China stepped in and established panda reserves, protecting millions of acres of giant panda habitat and more than half of the wild population. All that effort has had a very positive impact on this special species.
The United States and China are partnering to combat this global problem. Our two countries represent the two largest markets for illegally traded wildlife and we are both committed to taking action to reduce this demand.
Many of you may be aware of the Executive Order President Obama announced in July which tasked the Departments of State and Justice and Interior with leading the process to increase our efforts to combat wildlife trafficking at home and to strengthen our partnerships with other countries like China. I hope this newest arrival inspires you to take action to support conservation and protect species like the giant panda.
I am delighted to be here to participate in the naming of this adorable little baby panda. Congratulations again to the Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo for this great success.
It is now my great pleasure to introduce Ambassador Cui Tiankai, who is in his first year as Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States. The Ambassador has held many high-level posts around the world and he is not new to this particular part of the United States, having been a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University in the 1980s. We are so very pleased that Ambassador Cui could be here with us today, to share the enthusiasm that the people of the United States have for this newest representative of China –and the partnership between our countries to promote conservation and protect wildlife. Please join me in giving a very warm welcome on this very cold day to Ambassador Cui.