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Smithsonian's National Zoo Celebrate 50 Years of Pandas

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: April 18, 2022 8:43 pm

Giant Panda Celebration Smithsonian's National Zoo

Giant panda Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji received a specially tailored fruitsicle cake in honor of the “pandaversary.”

Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

The giant pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the zoo's giant panda conservation program. Celebrations at the zoo commemorated the unprecedented achievement in the care, conservation, breeding and study of giant pandas.

Currently three giant pandas are in residence at the zoo, 24-year-old male Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), 23-year-old female Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and their 19-month-old male cub Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji).

50 years ago this April the Smithsonian's National Zoo welcomed their first giant pandas. They came as a gesture of goodwill to the people of America following President Nixon’s seminal state visit to China. The gift was made by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai after First Lady Patricia Nixon mentioned her fondness for giant pandas to him.

The first pair, Ling-Ling (a female) and Hsing-Hsing (a male) arrived at the Zoo on April 16th 1972. Mrs Nixon held a ceremony welcoming them to the zoo on April 20, 1972.

Recognizing the significance of the giant panda program at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the D.C. Council passed a Ceremonial Resolution declaring April 2022, “Giant Panda Month” in recognition and celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s giant panda conservation program.

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In December 2000 the zoo entered in to the Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA). This saw the arrival of Tian Tian and Mei Xiang at the park. This 10 year agreement has since been extended three times and is currently scheduled to end in December 7th, 2023.

During their time at the zoo Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have welcomed four surviving cubs with their latest being Xiao Qi Ji.


Under the agreement the Zoo and Chinese partners will conduct cooperative research projects and the Zoo will pay $500,000 per year to support conservation efforts in China.


Cubs born at the zoo during the program can remain there until they are four. China retain ownership of all pandas housed at the zoo.

This weekend to celebrate the anniversary Zoo staff presented Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji with a panda-friendly fruitsicle cake in front of a crowd of adoring guests. Tian Tian was also presented with his own cake during the day.

Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and Ambassador Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China were present to put the final touches on the cake.

Learn more about Giant Pandas here – Giant Panda Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Smithsonian's National Zoo on their website – Smithsonian's National Zoo

Giant Panda Celebration Smithsonian's National Zoo

Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute stands beside Ambassador Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China before presenting a special ice cake to the Zoo's giant pandas.

Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

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