The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute will say bon voyage to its three resident giant pandas with a nine-day bash called Panda Palooza, set to take place from September 23 to October 1.
During these festivities, the zoo will be full of panda-themed fun. Visitors can look forward to live music, film screenings of Kung Fu Panda and The Miracle Panda, photo backdrops, arts and crafts, and a conservation-themed scavenger hunt. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China will provide a calligraphy station and special treats.
The event will take place both on site at the zoo and virtually. Like regular zoo visits, Panda Palooza is free, but reservations are required.
The three pandas, 25-year-old Mei Xiang, 26-year-old Tian Tian, and their 3-year-old cub Xiao Qi Ji, are set to fly back to China by December 7.
“Millions have connected with and grown up loving Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their cubs by visiting us in Washington, DC, and watching our Giant Panda Cam,” said Brandie Smith, the John and Adrienne Mars director of the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “Although this farewell is bittersweet, we must celebrate these bears and their impact on fans and on our understanding, care and conservation of their species.”
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian came to DC in 2000 as part of a breeding and research agreement between NZCBI and the China Wildlife and Conservation Association that allowed the zoo to temporarily house the pandas while they remained under China’s ownership.
Cubs born during their stay also remained China’s property. Mei Xiang gave birth to four surviving cubs during her time at the zoo: Tai Shan in 2005, Bao Bao in 2013, Bei Bei in 2015, and Xiao Qi Ji in 2020. The first three cubs went back to China when they turned 4 years old, and Xiao Qi Ji will return with his parents at the end of the contract.
The original deal was set to expire after 10 years, but was later extended. The zoo announced in 2020 that the pandas would leave by December 7, 2023.
“While the 2023 departure closes a major chapter of an international animal care and conservation success story, NZCBI remains committed to continuing its efforts to secure and safeguard a healthy future for giant pandas,” NZCBI said in a news release.
In the meantime, fans of the pandas can visit them in their enclosure at the zoo, watch their enclosure virtually through the Giant Panda Cam, and take part in the fun festivities happening during Panda Palooza.
The zoo also encourages fans to share their favorite panda-related pictures or memories on the zoo’s website.
Feature photo of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian courtesy The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
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