SAN DIEGO — On the eve of the expiration of the San Diego Zoo's contract with the Chinese government to exhibit two extraordinarily popular giant pandas, the Chinese have yet to affirm in writing their earlier offer to extend the loan for another 100 days.
A zoo representative is currently in Hong Kong and met recently with Chinese officials in Beijing in an effort to win a new contract guaranteeing that the two pandas would remain in San Diego until Feb. 15.
The pandas arrived in San Diego in late July and have since helped hike zoo attendance 30% above last year's levels. Zoo officials say the increase in daily attendance apparently attributable to the pandas has ranged from 2,000 to 5,000.
But the contract between the zoo and the Chinese Ministry of Forestry expires today. A zoo spokesman said zoo officials were told originally to accept a 100-day contract and apply for a renewal as the expiration date approached.