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 pair of 2-year-old pandas, male Bao Li and female Qing Bao, under a 10-year breeding and research agreement, the zoo said in a news release, to the delight of panda fans throughout the DC area and the United States.

“This long-standing program, and this collaboration with our Chinese colleagues, is one of the reasons why giant pandas are no longer listed as endangered, but only vulnerable, on the global list of endangered species. “said National Zoo Director Brandie Smith. she said.

Bao Li, whose name means “treasure” and “energetic” in Mandarin Chinese, has family ties to the National Zoo’s panda family: He is the son of Bao Bao, who was born in D.C. in 2013. That makes Bao Li the grandson of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, ​​​​who lived at the National Zoo for decades before returning to China last fall.

Roshan Patel, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Bao Li, a two-year-old male giant panda, in his habitat at the Shenshuping base in Wolong, China, on May 16.

“The panda’s arrival is not only an exciting event, it is proof positive of the success of our giant panda program,” Smith said.

“Bao Li is as handsome as his uncles, Tai Shan and Xiao Qi Ji,” Chinese ambassador Xie Feng said at a news conference Wednesday. “I think he’s also excited about the upcoming trip from his hometown in Sichuan to DC to see where his family lived and meet his friends here.”

As for Qing Bao, “She is a star,” Feng said. Qing Bao was the ambassador for the 9th World Wildlife Day when she was one year old. Her name means “green” and “treasure.”

Roshan Patel, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Qing Bao, a two-year-old female giant panda, in her habitat at the Dujiangyan base in Sichuan, China, on May 17.

The announcement comes six months after the National Zoo’s three iconic pandas left the zoo with an emotional farewell when their conservation agreement expired.

FedEx is set to bring the new pair to the United States on its “Panda Express service.” The animals will be quarantined for at least 30 days and then allowed to settle in for a few weeks before the panda exhibit opens to the public.

“The public debut date will be announced as soon as the animal care team feels the bears are ready to welcome visitors,” the zoo said.

Under the new agreement, the National Zoo will pay $1 million a year to the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association to “support research and conservation efforts in China,” according to the zoo. That money does not come from federal funds, according to the zoo.

The National Zoo says it is looking to raise $25 million to pay for panda exhibit renovations; maintain and update Giant Panda Cam; pay the operating costs of the panda exhibit and support conservation efforts.

China will retain ownership of the bears and the cubs must be returned to China before they turn 4 years old.

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. All three moved to new homes in the China 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.”