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Pandas In New York? It Could Be A Possibility

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Congresswoman Carloyn Maloney is advocating for New York to bring pandas to city zoos as part of a loan program with the Chinese government.

"It's going to be a great tourism attraction," Maloney said. "I believe it will generate tourism and revenue for our great city."

Pandas are popular, but they're also endangered. The rarest members of the bear family are native to China, but the Chinese government loans them to zoos around the world for scientific research aimed to save the species.

Only four zoos in the United States currently house pandas.

Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged his support for the pandas earlier this year, and Maloney said she received support from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis has volunteered to spearhead fundraising efforts for the project, which will require at least a million dollars per year. The project will be privately funded.

"Raising private money to have pandas is absolutely good, I'm in favor," Lorren Hammond told CBS2's Elise Finch.

Allison Zivin, of the Upper West Side, also liked the idea.

"We already support the zoo, so we'd be happy to continue that support and think it's a great thing for the park and New York City," Zizin said.

But according to Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Bronx Zoo Director, bringing pandas to New York is a complex process, with a much higher price tag.

"Building and maintenance of a panda exhibit would be an on-going effort that would require tens of millions of dollars up front and annual support monies for pandas for however long they would be in NY," Breheny said in a statement. "Any agreement to exhibit pandas would have to come with a guarantee of provision for the necessary funds."

A specific New York zoo has not been chosen to house the animals yet. If the pandas are approved to come to the state, the earliest they could possibly call New York home is 2017, due to a lengthy loan process.

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