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Pandas from China to be sent to San Diego Zoo for the first time in years

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After years of anticipation, China is preparing to send giant pandas to the U.S. once again, rekindling the spirit of “panda diplomacy” between the two countries.

The China Wildlife Conservation Assn. has reached agreements with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the Madrid Zoo Aquarium of Spain to further giant panda conservation efforts, as reported by Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

In a news release, Megan Owen, vice president of wildlife conservation science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, confirmed the partnership, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to continue collaborative conservation efforts to ensure the future of giant pandas.

The San Diego Zoo has not welcomed giant pandas since 2019, and the potential arrival of two pandas, one female and one male, by the end of the summer has stirred excitement. One of the female pandas being considered is descended from Bai Yun and Gao Gao, beloved pandas that used to reside at the San Diego Zoo.

Furthermore, China is in discussions with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., to establish a future giant panda program, highlighting the ongoing commitment to fostering panda conservation and research.

For over five decades, China has loaned pandas to the U.S. as a gesture of goodwill, strengthening diplomatic ties. However, recent years have seen some pandas returned to China, leading to uncertainty about the future of panda loans.

In 2019, the San Diego Zoo bid farewell to its last giant pandas, Bai Yun and her son, Xiao Liwu, returning them to China. Similarly, the Memphis Zoo sent back its female panda in April, and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo returned two adult pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, along with their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, in November.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has hinted at the possibility of sending new pandas to the U.S., emphasizing their role as “envoys of friendship” between the Chinese and American peoples. Xi’s statement reflects a dedication to deepening friendly ties through the exchange of these iconic creatures.

The history of panda loans traces back to 1972 when Beijing first lent two pandas to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington. In subsequent years, Beijing expanded the lending program to other U.S. zoos, with proceeds supporting conservation initiatives.

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The Contribution of Volcanoes to Venus’s Atmospheric Composition

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One of the many mysteries surrounding Venus, our closest planetary neighbor, is the origin of its atmosphere. The planet is veiled in thick clouds, making it challenging to study its surface and atmospheric composition. However, scientists have long speculated about the role of volcanoes in shaping Venus and adding to its atmosphere. With approximately 85,000 volcanoes on Venus, the idea of active volcanic activity is a topic of interest and debate among researchers.

A recent paper by European researchers explores the question of whether Venus has active volcanism through two approaches. The first approach considers whether Venus can maintain its current atmospheric composition without additional gases from volcanic emissions. The variability of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere over decades has been cited as potential evidence of ongoing volcanism. However, some scientists suggest that other factors, such as surface-atmosphere interactions or atmospheric dynamics, could also contribute to this variability.

The second approach focuses on identifying transient effects in Venus’ atmosphere that could indicate active volcanism. These effects could range from water vapor to particulate matter like volcanic ash. Data on these phenomena has been limited, primarily collected through remote sensing missions. However, upcoming missions to Venus, such as DAVINCI and EnVision, aim to provide more direct measurements and insights into the planet’s atmosphere.

DAVINCI, equipped with spectrometers and high-tech cameras, will gather data in Venus’ lower atmosphere to detect trace volcanic gases. It will also analyze ionic concentrations to indicate volcanic outgassing. EnVision, another mission, will focus on studying gases higher up in the atmosphere using various spectroscopic techniques to unravel mysteries in Venus’ cloud tops.

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While current missions offer valuable tools for studying Venus’ atmosphere, there are limitations to consider. For instance, an infrasound sensor could directly detect volcanic eruptions, but no missions currently include this technology. Despite these challenges, researchers are optimistic about the new insights these missions could bring to the ongoing debate on Venus’ volcanic activity.

With the earliest mission, DAVINCI, set to launch in approximately five years, scientists have time to refine their hypotheses and theories about Venus. The data collected during these missions could finally provide conclusive evidence regarding the presence of active volcanism on Venus, answering a long-standing question about our neighboring planet.

As researchers eagerly await the results from upcoming missions, the scientific community is hopeful that these endeavors will shed light on the enigmatic nature of Venus and its mysterious atmosphere. By leveraging advanced technologies and innovative approaches, scientists are poised to unravel the secrets of Venus and potentially redefine our understanding of planetary volcanism.

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