"Some donors have stepped up already," including corporate donors, pledging about $2 million, Kelly said. Kelly will travel to China this fall to meet with conservation officials, and hopes to have raised the money by then.
The arrangement with China hasn't been formalized, he added, but expected that it would be. "The San Diego Zoo just negotiated a similar deal," he said.
If the fund-raising program is successful, it wouldn't be the first time that panda lovers have reached into their pocketbooks. When the zoo briefly discontinued its popular "panda-cam" in January, a panda fan in Burke, Va., donated $10,000 to keep the pandas online.