Atlanta now only place to see giant pandas in the entire US

Panda fans take note, Atlanta is now the only city in the United States where you can see the giant fuzzy bears.

On Wednesday, the three giant pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. left for China, leaving Atlanta's two adults and two babies as the last pandas standing.

Every giant panda in the U.S. is on loan from the Chinese government as part of a 50-year conservation program. At every zoo in the country - except Atlanta’s -  that loan will expire in December. 

The two babies, Ya Lun and Xi Lun, and the two adults, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, at Zoo Atlanta are expected to remain for a short period of time and then head back sometime in 2024.

Panda Politics

China first began loaning giant pandas to the U.S. in 1972 to commemorate President Nixon's historic visit to the Communist nation. Amid strained tensions between the U.S. and China President Xi Jinping, foreign policy researchers said it’s a sign of the times. 

Ya Lun and Xi Lun (Zoo Atlanta)

"You see it with the pandas, with his attacks on the dollar, even with his nuclear weapons," said Rebecca Grant with IRIS Independent Research. "Frankly, the Communist Party of China just doesn't need to do panda diplomacy anymore."

During the 50 years of panda exchanges, the animal has been removed from the list of endangered species.

Zoo Atlanta said they were expecting to send the babies back, but with no new agreement, Lun Lun and Yang Yang have to go too.  

"The terms of Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda loan with China have always included the stipulation that per the terms of the loan agreement, all offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang travel to China when they are of age," Rachel Davis, a spokesperson for Zoo Atlanta told FOX 5 in September. "All five of Ya Lun’s and Xi Lun’s older siblings now live in China, and they are also expected to travel to China in 2024."

At the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the panda exhibit curator said the pandas’ presence has done wonders in preservation and conservation.

"What a conservation success story that we’ve had with giant pandas," said Michael Brown-Palsgrove. "They’ve upgraded them from endangered to vulnerable."

How much longer will the pandas be in Atlanta? 

Zoo Atlanta said it plans to coordinate with China on the pandas’ travel arrangements, however, they don’t have any specifics on when exactly in 2024 they’ll depart.

"No discussions have yet taken place with our partners in China as to the status of Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda program beyond the end of the loan in 2024," Davis wrote. "However, Zoo Atlanta is committed to the long-term stewardship of giant pandas and to the continuation of its valued partnership with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens."

For now, you can watch the pandas' antics on the Zoo's popular Panda Cam.

FOX 5's Rob Dirienzo and the Associated Press contributed to this report.