National Zoo Expected to Make Announcement About Panda Program – NBC4 Washington DC (44)

National Zoo Expected to Make Announcement About Panda Program – NBC4 Washington DC (44)

Giant pandas will return to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., by the end of the year, officials announced Wednesday.

China will send a new pair of giant pandas, male Bao Li and female Qing Bao, under a 10-year breeding and research agreement, the zoo said in a news release. Both bears are 2 years old.

“We are thrilled to announce that the next chapter of our breeding and conservation partnership begins with welcoming two new bears to Washington, D.C., including a descendant of our beloved panda family,” Zoo Director Brandie Smith said in a statement. a statement. “This historic moment is proof positive that our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has had an irrefutable impact. “Through this partnership, we have increased the panda population, advanced our shared understanding of how to care for this beloved bear, and learned what it takes to protect wild pandas and preserve native habitat.”

Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng is scheduled to make brief remarks Wednesday morning. Smith and other zoo officials will also address the media, the zoo said in a news release.

The announcement comes six months after the National Zoo’s three iconic pandas returned to China when a conservation agreement expired, leaving only a few pandas in U.S. zoos. In February, China announced plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo.

One of the bears headed to DC has family ties to the National Zoo’s panda family. Bao Li is a descendant of Bao Bao, who was born at the National Zoo in 2013. That makes Bao Li the grandson of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, ​​the zoo said. The name means “treasure” and “energetic” in Mandarin Chinese.

The bear, Qing Bao, was born in China on September 12, 2021, the zoo said. Her name means “green” and “treasure,” the zoo said.

Giant pandas were a staple at the National Zoo in DC for more than 50 years

The National Zoo’s long-time resident pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, left DC last fall, along with their youngest offspring, Xiao Qi Ji, who was born at the zoo in 2020. After an emotional farewell, the three They left for new homes in the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association, leaving the National Zoo’s giant panda habitat empty for the first time in decades.

Pandas first arrived at the National Zoo in the 1970s and evolved into DC’s unofficial mascots. The black and white bears appeared on Metro cards, street signs and statues throughout the district.

The panda conservation program flourished after the arrival of Tian Tian and Mei Xiang 20 years ago. Mei Xiang gave birth to four surviving cubs, Tai Shan, Bao Bao, Bei Bei and Xiao Ji Qi, the first panda in the United States born after her mother was artificially inseminated with frozen, rather than fresh, semen.

The agreement that held Tian Tian and Mei Xiang was expanded several times. The panda program has always served as a gesture of friendship and a kind of soft diplomacy between China and the United States, so the removal of pandas at the National Zoo and other zoos in the United States caused some concern. Currently, there are only four pandas in the country, all at Zoo Atlanta.

But in February, news that China plans to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo marked the return of panda diplomacy.

Despite ties to U.S.-China diplomacy, the negotiations are between researchers and not based on politics, Smith, director of the National Zoo, told News4 last summer.

“We’re a group of scientists; we’re a group of animals,” Smith said. “This is not a political conversation. It is absolutely a conversation between colleagues talking about what is best for the program as a whole and also what may be best for individual animals.”