VIDEO: Pandas devour ice cake to have fun 50 years at Nationwide Zoo

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The “cake” was comprised of frozen fruit juice, candy potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and it lasted about quarter-hour as soon as large panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji obtained maintain of it.

The Nationwide Zoo’s most well-known tenants had an enthusiastic breakfast Saturday in entrance of adoring crowds because the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda trade settlement with the Chinese language authorities.

Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian largely sat out the morning festivities, munching bamboo in a neighboring enclosure with the sounds of his chomping clearly audible throughout a press release by Chinese language ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as “a logo of the friendship” between the nations.

Pandas are nearly fully solitary by nature, and within the wild Tian Tian would most likely by no means even meet his little one. He obtained an analogous cake for lunch.

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Along with hailing the 1972 settlement sparked by President Richard Nixon’s landmark go to to China, Saturday’s celebration additionally highlighted the success of the worldwide large panda breeding program, which has helped carry the bears again from the brink of extinction.

Xiao Qi Ji’s beginning in August 2020 was hailed as a close to miracle, as a result of Mei Xiang’s superior age and the truth that zoo workers carried out the substitute insemination process below tight restrictions shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic shut the complete zoo. At age 22, Mei Xiang was the oldest large panda to efficiently give beginning in america.

Usually they might have used a mixture of frozen sperm and contemporary semen extracted from Tian Tian. However as a way to decrease the variety of close-quarters medical procedures, zoo officers used solely frozen semen.

“It was positively a long-shot being pregnant,” mentioned Bryan Amaral, the zoo’s senior curator for mammals.

In honor of that lengthy shot, the now 20-month-old cub was given a reputation that interprets as “little miracle.” His beginning in mid-pandemic sparked a contemporary wave of panda-mania, with viewership on the zoo’s panda-cam livestream spiking by 1,200 p.c.

“I understand how passionate persons are about pandas,” Amaral mentioned. “I’m not shocked by that zeal in any respect.”

Positive sufficient, crowds began streaming straight for the panda part at 8 a.m. when the zoo opened. Sisters Lorelai and Everley Greenwell, age 6 and 5, ran towards the enclosure chanting “Pandas! Pandas!”

They watched the cub tumble round, attempt to wrestle his mother and tear the zero off the enormous 50 emblazoned on the ice cake.

“They knew this was coming,” mentioned their mom Kayleigh Greenwell of Mount Ranier, Maryland, mentioned of her ladies. “We’ve been speaking about all of it week.”

The zoo’s unique 1972 panda pair, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, had been star points of interest on the zoo for many years, however panda pregnancies are notoriously tough and none of their cubs survived.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in 2000, and the pair has efficiently birthed three different cubs: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei — additionally by synthetic insemination. All had been transported to China at age 4, below phrases of the zoo’s settlement with the Chinese language authorities.

Comparable agreements with zoos all over the world have helped revitalize the enormous panda inhabitants. Down to only over 1000 bears within the Nineteen Eighties, the species has since been faraway from the lists of animals at risk of extinction.

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