For years now, the biggest draw to Zoo Atlanta has been its black-and-white fuzzballs, a pair of panda parents and their Atlanta-born offspring, Mei Lan and Xi Lan. This is no surprise. There are 13 captive pandas in the United States and we’ve got four of them. It’s incredibly special.
But now the Grant Park zoo is trying to raise $500,000 more to keep them, rather than sending them back to China when the lease ends. An AJC story, “Fund-raising lags to keep pandas in Atlanta,” says even the undisputed stars of the local animal kingdom aren’t a big moneymaker right now:
With $2 million already pledged from corporations and foundations, the zoo went public with its “Give So They Stay” campaign in mid-June, and has raised $59,000. That’s roughly a tenth of the goal, but no one seems fazed, at least not yet, since a still-to-be-negotiated deal with the Chinese government would not kick in until 2010.
Is it the economy? All the other cultural institutions vying for donations? Or have we just had enough?
Regardless of whether they’ve gotten too much attention, they’re adorable, and I’m a willing sucker. Check out this slideshow of the day in the life of an Atlanta panda. I have a very hard time watching without trying to scratch a panda belly through my computer screen.
Want to go? Zoo Atlanta is open 9:30-5:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday except Thanksgiving and Christmas days. $13.99-$18.99. Children ages 2 and younger are free. The zoo is located at 800 Cherokee Ave. SE in Atlanta’s Grant Park. For more information call (404) 624-9453 or visit www.zooatlanta.org.
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