23 Jun 2010

PM backs giant pandas for Wellington Zoo

10:06 pm on 23 June 2010

Wellington Zoo says it has been approached about whether it could take endangered giant pandas - and the Prime Minister's all for it.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast's office has confirmed that the possibility of bringing the pandas to the capital was discussed when Ms Prendergast met the Mayor of Beijing in China at the beginning of June.

Prime Minister John Key says he first expressed an interest in bringing pandas here last year and will talk more about it next week during a visit to Beijing himself.

He says it would be a great way of extending New Zealand's relationship with China.

Nothing in black and white yet

The zoo's chief executive, Karen Fifield, says major infrastructure changes would be needed if the giant pandas came. Part of the zoo would have to be redeveloped to house them, she says.

In Adelaide, the number of visitors to the city's zoo has gone up 70% since giant pandas took up residence there six months ago.

Wellington Zoo says that's an exciting prospect. Discussions are at an early stage, however, and nothing's in black and white yet.