Finland: what to do with the costly pandas?

Finland has had two pandas on loan from China since 2018. The costs for Ähtäri Zoo, where the animals are kept, amount to 1.5 million euros per year for rent and maintenance and have now become a bone of contention. A government proposal to provide 5 million euros in funding for the zoo has met with criticism, partly because two of its ministers come from the Ähtäri constituency. The zoo wants to return the animals to China. The press points to the international dimensions of the affair.

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Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

A symbol of naive political decisions

Finland should never have engaged in panda diplomacy, Helsingin Sanomat criticises:

“For China, pandas are part of the soft power concept. They are an important instrument of diplomacy and trade policy, but ultimately also a matter of prestige. ... It was a mistake from the start to bring pandas to Finland. Finland stuck its head in a noose offered by China from which is hard to extricate oneself. The panda discussion comes at a time when dependence on China should be reduced. The panda in Ähtäri is a symbol of the same naivety as the investments of Finnish companies in Russia, which are now being pressured to withdraw.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

Back to China with them

Keskisuomalainen sees no good reason to keep these expensive Chinese animals in the country:

“It is unrealistic to assume that the number of visitors will ever grow to the point where the income generated by tickets covers the maintenance costs. ... It's time to say goodbye to the pandas in Ähtäri. Ähtäri Zoo can't afford to keep them and too few Finns are interested in them. There are also no companies willing to cover the costs of their care. This leaves only taxpayers' money. But there is no reason to put even more money into the pandas.”