The oldest zoo in Germany will once more become home to giant pandas, according to a press release from Zoo Berlin on Wednesday.
“The introduction of pandas [here] is no longer in question,” said zoo board chairman Frank Bruckmann in a statement.
“Zoo visitors can already look forward to being able to meet the pandas in summer 2017.”
The building of a brand new panda enclosure is set to start next month.
The arrival of the pandas next summer will mark five years since Berlin’s last giant panda Bao Bao passed away. The oldest male captive panda in the world died a bachelor aged 34 in August 2012.
Bao Bao, Berlin's last giant panda, in his enclosure in Berlin. Photo: DPA
Despite having two different female companions during his lifetime in the Berlin zoo, and a stint in London's zoo, the bear never produced any offspring.
Bruckmann and zoo director Dr. Andreas Knieriem returned on Monday from a trip to China, having visited the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and the State Forestry Administration (SFA) in Beijing, and then a panda breeding centre in Chengdu.
“Which exact panda pair [we get] will be decided in the next few weeks with the signing of the contract,” he continued. “Building construction is being prepared so that we can get under way with creating the 5,208 square-metre panda landscape as quickly as possible.”
Additional zoo workers will travel to China in the coming weeks to attend a conference on panda breeding in Chengdu and to learn from their Chinese colleagues.
China stopped gifting pandas to zoos in 2007, now only loaning them worldwide, according to broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg.
Other zoos pay around $1 million per panda pair per year, and Berlin is set to house the pandas for 15 years.
In their press release, the zoo makes no mention of the cost involved in the loan.
It is estimated by the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), whose logo features the bamboo-eating bear, that there are only around 1,800 great pandas left in the wild, making it the rarest member of the bear family.