Speed Reads

pandaversary

Smithsonian's National Zoo celebrates 50 years of the 'iconic' giant panda program

The next six months will be pandamonium at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

The zoo is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its giant panda program with six months of in-person and online events. China sent the first pandas to the zoo in 1972 as an act of goodwill, following President Richard Nixon's state visit to the country.

"After 50 years, giant pandas remain an iconic species for our zoo," Brandi Smith, the director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, said in a statement. "More importantly, they represent how great conservation outcomes can be achieved through great partnerships with our Chinese colleagues. Being able to introduce hundreds of millions of people worldwide to pandas and inspiring them to care about their conservation for five decades, coupled with our scientific breakthroughs, is a milestone worth celebrating."

In the last five decades, conservationists at the zoo have learned more about giant panda biology, behavior, reproduction, health, and habitat, sharing this knowledge with others to prevent the species from going extinct. Right now, three pandas are living at the zoo: 24-year-old male Tian Tian; 23-year-old female Mei Xiang; and 18-month-old male cub Xiao Qi Ji.