The zoo’s consolidated financial statements put it around one million euros in the red. Some 800,000 euros of the losses at the animal park in South Ostrobothnia are directly panda-related. The zoo is, however, upbeat about the future. Visitor numbers have been growing in the past few months, and operations are expected back in the black during 2018, according to Ähtäri Zoo CEO Jonna Pietilä.
Furry foreign policy tool?
Earlier this year, Finland welcomed two giant ‘diplomacy pandas’ Lumi and Pyry (officially Jin Baobao and Hua Bao) from China, which are expected to attract visitors to the area for years to come.
The loan of the two pandas was China's gift to Finland marking its 100th anniversary of independence in December of last year. The pandas were loaned amid a state visit to Finland by Chinese president Xi Jinping, along with agreements on innovation and investment as well as winter sports.
During President Xi’s visit Finland also committed to the 'one China' policy, meaning that Finland officially recognises the People's Republic of China—not Taiwan.