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These Pandas Could Be Booted Out Of Australia If ScoMo Wins The Election

Like most couples, Giant Pandas Wang Wang and Funi have had ups and downs in their relationship.

The pair arrived in Adelaide from China a decade ago, but have been unable to produce any offspring -- one of the key reasons they were bought to Australia.

Now the fate of the animals lies in the hands of voters and ultimately, the next Prime Minister of Australia.

Keeping Wang Wang and Funi in Australia costs about $1 million a year.

Adelaide Zoo, where the pair reside, pays this to the Chinese Government, which owns all of the world's Pandas. Without a renewed funding commitment from the government, the furry friends could be deported back to China as early as November.

Wang Wang and Funi
Wang Wang and Funi have been in Australia for a decade.Image: AAP.

Labor announced in February it would fund the Pandas' stay in Australia until 2024 if elected to office. Senator Penny Wong said keeping the Pandas in Australia is vital to boosting tourism.

"Without funding, unfortunately, the pandas would have to go home in November," Wong said in February.

"But today I'm announcing that a Shorten Labor government, if elected, will ensure that the pandas stay here in Adelaide and will fund [the deal] for five years at $1.3 million a year."

READ MORE: WATCH: Taronga Zoo's New Panda Cubs Make Their First Adorable Appearance

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Wang Wang and Funi arrived in Australia in 2009. Image: Getty Images.

In the Coalition camp, things aren't as clear.

If Scott Morrison is re-elected as PM, the fate of Wang Wang and Fun isn't black and white. Without a policy announcement to date, voting for the Coalition could be a vote for sending the Pandas back to China.

"The Department is aware that the Adelaide Zoo has requested additional funds to extend the existing lease for two pandas from China, Wang Wang and Fu Ni," a spokesperson from the Department of the Environment and Energy said in a statement obtained by 10 daily.

"The Government is considering the request."

While a number of attempts to breed Giant Pandas at Adelaide Zoo have failed, there's still optimism the facility could be home to newborn cubs in the future.

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Wang Wang at Adelaide Zoo in 2009. Image: Getty Images.

READ MORE: 12 Adorable Cub Pandas Make Their Public Debut

Adelaide Zoo Chief Executive Elaine Bensted said the zoo has purpose-built facilities to ensure their breeding program is successful and that extra time is needed.

“We’re really hopeful that the loan agreement will be extended and we look forward to continuing discussions with the Australian Government and our Chinese partners," Benstead said.

WHY DOES AUSTRALIA NEED TO BREED GIANT PANDAS?

The Panda loan program is part of the Chinese Government's plan to save the species from extinction.

Having the Chinese-owned animals in Australia strengthens partnerships with China and across the Asia Pacific while giving Australian scientists the opportunity to contribute to panda research and conservation.

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Funi in Adelaide in 2015. Image: Getty Images.

Giant Pandas are classed as vulnerable, with approximately 1864 still living in the wild. They play a crucial role in promoting vegetation growth and spreading seeds in bamboo forests. This is especially important in the Yangtze Basin where pandas live with an array of animals native to China.

“Our international collaborative efforts have significantly enhanced the collective understanding of Giant Panda biology and subsequent application of new knowledge Giant Panda conservation," Benstead said.

Wang Wang and Funi
Wang Wang and Funi's future in Australia isn't certain. Image: AAP.

Giant Pandas also attract local and international visitors to South Australia, generating economic benefits for the state's economy.

China Loans Pandas To Zoos All Over The World

China currently has Pandas on loan to 26 zoos in 18 different countries. In 2018, two pandas were sent to Ähtäri, Finland on a 15-year loan.

Denmark's Copenhagen Zoo will receive two pandas of their own in April this year.

Any cubs born overseas are technically the property of China and usually return to China to continue their captive breeding program.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au