Lin Ping signed to new contract
The giant panda Lin Ping is expected to have a big party to celebrate her fourth birthday next Monday.
- Published: 20/05/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
Lin Ping is all grown up now but remains a star. A deal has been made with China to keep her and her future mate in Thailand for another 15 years. (Thiti Wannamontha)
After that, the panda bear will be in the country for five more months, before leaving for China to be matched up with a mate.
Beijing believes that a companion for Lin Ping will be found within a year, after which the couple will return to Thailand for the next 15 years, under a new loan contract in which Thailand pays US$1 million annually.
The government has also agreed to pay $500,000 a year to extend the stay of Lin Ping's parents, Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, because their 10-year loan will expire in October.
These payments, nearly 44 million baht a year excluding 10 million baht for expenses to house the bears comfortably in the Chiang Mai Zoo, annoy some who say the plight of Thailand's native elephants is being ignored.
But Chiang Mai Zoo executives have urged people to consider how the pandas are helping boost the economy of the country.
"The payment is worthwhile, as it boosts the overall tourism economy in Chiang Mai," said Wittaya Singkam, the zoo's chief of business development.
Last year, the zoo earned 35 million baht from ticket fees to see the pandas. It also generated 120 million from other activities.
When Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui were brought to Thailand 10 years ago, the pair helped double the income of the zoo from only 20 million baht a year.
Last year, Lin Ping helped to draw more than 1.4 million visitors, compared with 800,000 before she was born.
The zoo charges 50 baht to visit the giant pandas in addition to the 70 baht entrance fee.
Mr Wittaya argued that the female panda cub's birth in 2010 helped to rescue Chiang Mai's economy.
"At that time, the political riots in Bangkok caused heavy cancellations by foreigners. But the craze for Lin Ping attracted local visitors, significantly offsetting the decline," he recalled.
When Lin Hui was expecting, the Thailand Post ran a campaign inviting people to vote to name the baby panda for a chance to win a 1-million-baht prize and a passenger car.
The agency sold 28.6 million postcards in less than a month.
Cable TV operator TrueVisions aired the Panda Channel, a live feed for fans to follow every move of the panda cub, which ran for three years before ending last October.
Though the programme did not provide substantial amounts of revenue to True, it hooked many viewers.
In 2009, the zoo also awarded Apex Toys Co the rights to produce and sell souvenirs and toys of Lin Ping characters for three years.
Souvenir sales had started to flag, but news of the potential departure of Lin Ping returned her to the spotlight, said Mr Wittaya.
"She is a star, and we hope she has a baby. That would mean we have a chance to hold onto the animals longer," he said.
About the author
- Writer: Walailak Keeratipipatpong
- Position: Reporter