A giant panda became an internet sensation after zoo keepers released hilarious footage of it frolicking in the snow with its very own snowman.
Da Mao, Canada’s sole male giant panda on loan from China, was caught on camera trying to simultaneously hug, claw, climb, and decapitate a giant zookeeper-built snowman.
In addition to being an instant Youtube star, Da Mao is also a savvy (and cuddly) instrument of Chinese diplomacy. China has sent pandas as envoys to other countries since the 1950s in a move that’s come to be known as “panda diplomacy.” It’s an effective tactic because, well, who doesn’t love pandas?
In 2013, China loaned Da Mao and another female panda, Er Shun, to Canada as a part of a 10 year, $10 million agreement on panda conservation and breeding between the two governments. The Canadian government rolled out the red carpet for their new furry friends; then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper even greeted them at the airport when they arrived. Two years later, the panda pair became the proud parents of two new (and equally adorable) panda cubs.
China has benefitted from the warm-and-fuzzy panda PR, but it’s also caused a few awkward diplomatic dust-ups in the past. In 2009, President Barack Obama reportedly personally lobbied Chinese President Hu Jintao to keep a leased panda cub, Tai Shan, at Washington’s National Zoo for longer than the lease. The Chinese, unfortunately, said no.
Sadly, Washington National Zoo’s other favorite panda, Bao Bao, has to move back to China in early 2017. No word on whether President-elect Donald Trump will push to keep her stateside, since he’s apparently getting tough on China.