Smithsonian National Zoo kicks off 50th anniversary celebration of giant panda program – Xinhua

Photo taken on March 16, 2022 shows giant panda Mei Xiang at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

“After 50 years, giant pandas remain an iconic species for our zoo,” says Brandie Smith.

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) — The National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institute for Conservation Biology have launched a month-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of its giant panda program.

Located in northwest Washington, DC, the famed zoo announced a series of online and on-site events from March 16 through August 27 to mark “50 years of unparalleled achievement in the care, conservation, breeding and study of giant pandas”.

“After 50 years, giant pandas remain an iconic species for our zoo,” said Brandie Smith, director of John and Adrienne Mars, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, in a statement.

Photo taken on March 16, 2022 shows giant pandas Mei Xiang (left) and Xiao Qi Ji at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

“Most importantly, they represent just how great conservation results can be achieved through great partnerships with our Chinese colleagues,” Smith said. “Being able to introduce pandas to hundreds of millions of people around the world and inspire them to care about their conservation for five decades, coupled with our scientific breakthroughs, is a milestone truly worth celebrating.”

At least hundreds of visitors – mostly parents and their children – explored the zoo’s giant panda habitat around noon on Wednesday.

While the black and white fluffy bears were all sleeping, people still enjoyed their sight while being curious to learn the knowledge of the precious species through posters on the wall.

Tourists take pictures of giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, the United States, March 16, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

In the outdoor exhibit is the Giant Panda Family Tree Photo Gallery, where there are photos and information about the zoo’s giant panda breeding program and how the cubs are born. there contribute to the survival of their species in China.

Other events will take place next month. On April 16, visitors can watch lion dance performances, panda buns and calligraphy demonstrations in the habitat, while the giant pandas will receive special treats.

There are currently three giant pandas living in the zoo: Mei Xiang, a 23-year-old female, Tian Tian, ​​a 24-year-old male, and their 18-month-old male cub, Xiao Qi Ji.

Photo taken on March 16, 2022 shows the giant panda family tree at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

Mei Xiang gave birth to three other cubs at the zoo, all of whom returned to China when they were four years old under the institute’s cooperation agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA).

Since their arrival at the zoo, the giant pandas have symbolized cross-cultural collaboration between the United States and China.

In 1972, then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai gifted two giant pandas to the United States as a gesture of goodwill following the groundbreaking visit of then-US President Richard Nixon.

Visitors look at the giant panda family tree at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, the United States, March 16, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, chose the Smithsonian National Zoo as the home of the Ling-Ling woman and the Hsing-Hsing man in the United States.

Then-zoo director Theodore Reed personally escorted the bears from China and they arrived in Washington, D.C. on April 16, 1972. Four days later, Pat Nixon officially welcomed the giant panda couple to the zoo. .

For five decades, the zoo has cared for giant pandas by creating and maintaining one of the largest panda conservation programs in the world. The collaboration between Chinese colleagues and the zoo’s team of animal care, scientists and researchers has been the cornerstone of these efforts.

Tourists take pictures of giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, the United States, March 16, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

The unified effort to create and share knowledge is saving this species from extinction. Giant pandas are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are about 1,800 in the wild.

The zoo has renewed its giant panda cooperative research and breeding agreement with the CWCA three times since 2000.

The current extension to the research agreement was signed on December 7, 2020, and states that the zoo’s pandas will continue to live at the zoo until 2023. In return, the zoo is contributing funds and expertise to efforts to conservation in China.

Ryan H. Bowman