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San Diego park honors New Year, conservation

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | | Updated: 2022-02-07 12:00
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A girl, who was a visitor to the park, is gifted a red envelpe from Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles Zhang Ping and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance President and CEO Paul Baribault at San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Saturday. [Liu Yinmeng/China Daily]

As the San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year, it also recognized a bilateral conservation partnership that has been in place for decades.

"Today, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance hosts its inaugural Lunar New Year celebration. This year begins the Year of the Tiger, known for being brave, courageous and generous," Paul Baribault, president and CEO of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, said Saturday.

He noted that through working with its partners in China, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a conservation organization that operates the zoo and the safari park, helps to get giant pandas removed from the endangered species list.

"One of our most wonderful success stories of our past is the shared success of the panda recovery, really where its population was in a very desperate state, but working with our partners in China, collectively, we are able to turn that outcome around. That was only possible with partnership, with friendship … in place for 30-plus years," Baribault said.

Zhang Ping, Chinese consul general in Los Angeles, thanked the wildlife alliance for its dedication and commitment to giant pandas and other animals' protection.

"China and the US collaboration on giant-panda protection is a successful story of China-US cooperation. It built a bridge of friendship that connects the hearts and minds of our two peoples," he said.

The envoy noted that this year's Spring Festival coincided with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which held its opening ceremony on Feb 4.

"The Beijing Winter Olympics is the first Olympic Games driven entirely by green energy. It demonstrates China's commitment to environmental protection and its effort to pursue green and low-carbon growth," Zhang said.

Baribault told China Daily that it's wonderful to see the International Olympic Committee and the Olympics movement "collectively moving towards more sustainable solutions in their sports".

He said the Olympic Games celebrate interconnectedness and the world coming together, which is also what the Lunar New Year celebration at the safari park aims to achieve.

As a former athlete who had competed on the US national team in men's luge for six years, Baribault said he is always excited to watch the Games, because he gets to see athletes he had trained with or competed against in the past.

"When I competed, you are competing in world cups and world championships every year, so you are always one big family, a global family, so it's so neat to see some of those athletes who I competed against, now are coaches for the other teams. So it's always fun to see that we stay connected through all the years," he added.

As part of the celebration, guests and visitors to the park received Winter Olympic souvenirs from the Chinese Consulate General as well as red envelopes from the wildlife alliance. They also were invited to hang red ribbons and their wishes on trees in the safari park. The trees will be planted in the park's Tiger Trail and marked with a plaque honoring Saturday's celebration and the wildlife alliance's long friendship with its Chinese conservation partners.

RJ Albright, who lives in San Diego, chatted with China Daily after getting a red envelope for his daughter.

"We came to see tigers today," he said.

Of the Olympics' opening ceremony, Albright said, "It was absolutely beautiful, just seeing the people. It's an interesting time in China and Beijing, but for us, it was mostly the colors, the blue, the water, was very exciting," he said.

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