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The Price Of The Tourist Draw: How Pandas Are Like Royals

Tai Shan on his first birthday. The panda was conceived in 2005 through artificial insemination in a procedure performed by National Zoo scientists and veterinarians. Ann Batdorf/Smithsonian Institution via AP hide caption

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Ann Batdorf/Smithsonian Institution via AP

The London Review of Books has a cheeky little piece about how much China charges zoos for their pandas:

The standard fee paid by the four US zoos that hold pandas – Memphis, San Diego, Zoo Atlanta and the National Zoo in Washington DC – has been $1 million a year for each pair, plus roughly the same again in sponsorship for panda research and conservation projects, plus an annual premium of $600,000 if the pandas mate and produce cubs (only the Memphis pandas have failed on this score); and then you have to throw in the costs of building or adapting enclosures and ensuring a regular supply of the right bamboo.

But what's a literary blog without an explosive metaphor? Given the news that the Edinburgh Zoo is receiving two pandas and that talk of the Prince William/Kate Middleton wedding is reaching fever pitch, LBR twisted this marvelous comparison:

Royalty and pandas have more in common than you might think: both have found their ecological niche shrinking, but have managed to cling on by rebranding themselves as a tourist draw; both have suffered over the years from a failure to renew the gene pool; and this helps to explain why both come under intense public pressure to perform sexually and produce offspring.