Large pandas have been stars of the Nationwide Zoo for 50 years

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Few animals obtain as a lot consideration as big pandas. The black-and-white fur balls may be seen in zoos all over the world, however hardly any lived exterior their native China till a half-century in the past. Their arrival in Washington, D.C., was an enormous deal, nevertheless it happened in an surprising method.

When President Richard Nixon and his spouse, Pat, made an official go to to China in February 1972, the primary girl sat subsequent to Chinese language Premier Zhou Enlai at a proper dinner. She talked about that she beloved pandas. Zhou, who was trying to enhance China’s relationship with the U.S., responded, “I’ll offer you some.”

He made good on the supply simply two months later. A pair of younger pandas – a feminine named Ling-Ling and a male named Hsing-Hsing – arrived at Washington, D.C.’s Nationwide Zoo. “I feel panda-monium goes to interrupt out proper right here on the Nationwide Zoo,” Pat Nixon stated jokingly on the arrival celebration on April 16.

Nixon was proper. Folks from the Washington space and throughout the nation stood in lengthy traces to see Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing. Not solely have been they cute, however additionally they had a compelling story: The species wanted assist as a result of the variety of wild pandas in China was declining because of habitat loss and different issues.

Followers hoped the pair would produce cubs, they usually did. However not one of the newborns – who’re the dimensions of a stick of butter – survived longer than a number of days. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing spent a few years on the zoo, dying there in previous age in 1992 and 1999.

The Smithsonian wished to proceed studying about pandas and educating the general public in regards to the endangered species. The Chinese language authorities supplied to lend a male panda and a feminine panda for $1 million per yr. The zoo agreed, and Tian Tian and Mei Xiang arrived in December 2000. The 2 immediately turned the most well-liked animals on the zoo.

Panda watchers grew much more excited in 2005 when Mei Xiang gave beginning to Tai-Shan in 2005. Every cub milestone turned a information story. Sadly, Tai couldn’t keep on the zoo. Pandas born there have been required to be despatched to a breeding program in China, so in 2010 the town stated farewell to its much-loved cub.

Mei finally had three extra wholesome cubs: Bei Bei, Bao Bao – who each moved to China – and Xiao Qi Ji, who remains to be on the zoo. Xiao Qi Ji was known as “little miracle” as a result of his mother turned the second-oldest big panda identified to offer beginning when he was born in 2020.

The Nationwide Zoo has deliberate a “pandaversary” April 16 and 17 to mark 50 years of big pandas in Washington, D.C. The occasion will embody dance performances, scientist talks, showings of a brand new panda documentary and treats for Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Xiao Qi Ji.

Prior to now 50 years, the large panda story has turn into extra hopeful. Because of conservation efforts in China and zoos worldwide, the species has moved from endangered to threatened, a less-worrisome class. These interested by seeing pandas in individual ought to go to the Nationwide Zoo earlier than December 2023.

China has determined that each one three pandas will depart Washington, D.C., at the moment, and there’s no plan to ship extra. It could possibly be a brand new period for the species – one spent largely at residence.

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