Pandas Make a Comeback: Giant Pandas to Return to National Zoo in D.C.

Washington, D.C. will welcome the return of giant pandas to the National Zoo later this year, as announced by zoo officials on Wednesday. The partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Association will bring two 2-year-old pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute by the end of the year, spreading joy to bear enthusiasts nationwide.

The exciting news of the panda’s return was delivered by First Lady Jill Biden, National Zoo director Brandie Smith, and Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III in a video announcement on Wednesday. The pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, meaning “treasure,” “energetic,” “green,” and “treasure,” were both born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan.

These adorable creatures will be available for public viewing at the zoo, with the panda cam set to relaunch when the new pandas make their debut. The director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Brandie Smith, hailed the announcement as a “historic moment,” emphasizing the significance of the partnership in the efforts to grow the panda population and preserve their native habitat.

The return of the giant pandas comes after the departure of Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, back to China last year following the expiration of the panda loan agreement amid strained U.S.-China relations. Fans bid farewell to these beloved black-and-white bears, long-time attractions at the National Zoo, as they prepared to leave.

The new loan agreement for the pandas at the National Zoo will span 10 years, contributing to the broader breeding and conservation program aimed at safeguarding the species. The success of these efforts is evident in the increase in the panda population, with around 2,000 living in the wild currently, moving the species from endangered to vulnerable status according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In addition to the National Zoo, other zoos across the U.S. like San Diego and San Francisco are also set to welcome new pandas in the near future. However, Atlanta will have to bid farewell to its four pandas this year, highlighting the ongoing efforts to ensure the well-being and sustainability of these iconic creatures.