Panda Madness in Belgium

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Everyone loves pandas. Fuzzy, clumsy adorable pandas. If anything could unite French speakers and Dutch speakers in Belgium, you’d think it would be pandas.

Unfortunately, the differences between the two communities are apparently so great, even pandas can’t bridge the gap. In fact, a row erupted this week between the two groups after China offered to loan two of the rare furry creatures to Belgium. The pandas will be going to the Pairi Daiza wildlife park in the French-speaking region of Wallonia.

This has angered some groups representing citizens in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders. They contend that the pandas should have gone to Antwerp Zoo in Flanders.  The Antwerp Zoo is older, has previous experience with pandas and applied to house and display another pair of them a decade ago.  Therefore, the zoo feels it should have dibs on any pandas coming into Belgium.  A zoo spokesman told Reuters,  “All in all we are rather surprised that the prime minister did not think of us.”

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo is from Wallonia, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Pairi Daiza wildlife park. A member of the Flemish separatist party has accused him of favoritism. For its part, the wildlife park says it won the pandas because it has the best facilities. A spokesman told the Telegraph, “Pairi Daiza has begun building an ultra-modern installation in its Chinese garden that has perfectly integrated a Sichuan country setting.”

At its core, the dispute is about money. Pandas are cute, rare and draw huge crowds. According to Reuters, other zoos have seen visitors increase by 20 percent after acquiring the animals.

Hopefully tensions die down after the bears arrive next year. After all, who can stay mad looking at a face like that?