Margaret Thatcher was apparently not one for panda diplomacy.
The former British Prime Minister once refused to share a flight to Washington with a giant panda on an official visit, according to official documents declassified on Friday .
In 1981 the president of the London Zoological Society, Lord Zuckerman, asked officials if Thatcher would take a male panda named Chia-Chia to the United States on her Concorde flight.
The Smithsonian Institute in Washington had requested the panda to be loaned from London Zoo so that it could mate with its resident female panda.
“Lord Zuckerman sees this as a signal demonstration of the special relationship,” Cabinet secretary Robert Armstrong wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister’s private secretary.
He added that Zuckerman “even suggested that the Prime Minister might like to take the panda on the back of her Concorde, when she goes to Washington next month.”
Thatcher was not impressed. “I am not taking a panda with me,” she wrote in blue felt-tip pen on the document containing the request. For emphasis, she double-underlined the words “not” and “me.”
Thatcher suggested alternative arrangements be made. “Lord Z knows more about pandas than I do — I am sure he can arrange these things.”
The documents were among a set of declassified British Cabinet files released by the National Archives in London on Friday. London Zoo was in financial trouble at the time, and the files detail the debt crisis at the attraction.
UK law requires central government departments to identify records of historical value and transfer them for permanent preservation to the National Archives by the time they are 20 years old.
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