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Two giant pandas will arrive at D.C.’s National Zoo this year, officials say

Giant pandas will return this year to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., officials announced Wednesday.

Two 2-year-old pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, will arrive at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute by the end of the year, in partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, the zoo said in a press release, bringing joy to bear lovers across the country.

Qing Bao, a two-year-old female giant panda, in her habitat at Dujiangyan base, Sichuan, China, May 17, 2024.Roshan Patel / Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

First Lady Jill Biden teamed up with National Zoo Director Brandie Smith and Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III to announce the exciting news in a video Wednesday, joking about preparing for two special guests at the White House.

“We look forward to celebrating this historic moment here in our nation’s capital. Join us. It’s official! The pandas are coming back to DC! ” she says.

Bao Li, a male whose name means “treasure” and “energetic” in Mandarin Chinese, and Qing Bao, a female whose name means “green” and “treasure”, were both born at the China Conservation and Research Center about the giant panda. in Sichuan.

Bao Li’s mother, Bao Bao, was born at the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in 2013, and his grandparents Tian Tian and Mei Xiang lived there from 2000 to 2023.

Animal lovers will be able to visit the bears at the zoo for free or watch their antics on the panda cam, which will be relaunched at the zoo when the new pandas make their public debut.

Brandie Smith, director of the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, called the announcement a “historic moment.”

“Through this partnership, we have increased the panda population, advanced our shared understanding of how to care for this beloved bear, and learned what is needed to protect wild pandas and preserve their natural habitat,” he said. Smith said.

Bao Li, a two-year-old male giant panda, in his habitat at Shenshuping Base in Wolong, China, May 16, 2024.Roshan Patel / Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

The announcement comes after the return of giant pandas Tian Tian, ​​Mei Xiang and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, to China last year, as the panda loan deal expired amid strained relations between the United States and China.

Upon news of their departure, fans gathered at the National Zoo to bid farewell to the beloved black and white bears who had long been one of the zoo’s main attractions.

This new National Zoo loan agreement will be in effect for 10 years.

The panda programs at the National Zoo and others across the United States are part of a breeding and conservation agenda — and their efforts are paying off. In the 1980s, there were about 1,100 pandas in China, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Today, around 2,000 pandas live in the wild, and hundreds more in zoos, moving the species from endangered to vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the famous San Diego Zoo says it will also receive two pandas later this year, and San Francisco also expects to receive pandas, but there is no timetable yet. Atlanta must return its four pandas this year.

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