News from the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat

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Giant pandas are black and white bears that live in temperate-zone bamboo forests in central China. Among the best recognized—but rarest—animals in the world, they have come to symbolize endangered species and conservation efforts. As few as 1,600 giant pandas survive in the mountain forests of central China. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world; most of these pandas are in China.

Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are at the National Zoo under a Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, signed in January 2011, between the Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. This extends the Zoo’s giant panda program through 2015. Mei and Tian are the focus of an ambitious research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve this endangered species.

Seeing Pandas at the Zoo

Giant panda cub Bao Bao is now on exhibit! Bao Bao is now spending much of her time in the trees of her outdoor exhibit where she can sometimes be difficult to see. Sharp eyes will spot her.

  • The panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Please arrive early. Long lines require earlier cut-off times to ensure those waiting can enter the panda house before it closes. If crowds are heavy, the line may close as early as 2 p.m.
  • Flash photography and video are welcome, but please refrain from setting up tripods, or other stationary equipment.

Visitors will be allowed into the panda house on a first-come-first-served basis.

Due to the expected number of visitors to see Bao Bao, Asia Trail will be open to one-way traffic only. Visitors will enter Asia Trail at the sloth bear exhibit, near the Connecticut Avenue pedestrian entrance. Those visiting Bao Bao will be asked to line up outside the giant panda house in front of the panda yards. For the safety of our guests, animals, and staff, visitors will be allowed into the panda house in small groups to avoid overcrowding.

Visitors will enter the panda house from the west entrance, by the red panda exhibit, and exit the east entrance. After leaving the panda house, visitors will exit Asia Trail near Panda Plaza.

Although the panda house will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mei Xiang and Bao Bao may not always be visible during that time. They will have access to the den where Bao Bao has spent much of the past few months and may choose to spend time in there instead of on exhibit.


April 21

It's been a busy few weeks at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. Bao Bao is now going outside with Mei Xiang regularly in the morning. She has been busy exploring, and Smithsonian Channel captured her first attempt at climbing a tree. Now she climbs high in the trees in Mei Xiang's yard without any hesitation, which is exactly what giant panda cubs would do in the wild. As with any new climber, she's had a few falls, but panda cubs are built to withstand them and Bao Bao is no exception. In addition to the keepers, Mei also has an ever watchful eye on her cub and is always ready to help if Bao Bao needs her. Part of going outside is learning to come back inside. But Bao Bao has not quite mastered shifting back inside at the end of the day. Sometimes she follows Mei straight inside and other times she chooses to stay up in the trees.

Bao Bao may not be shifting inside like an adult panda yet, but she started tasting more foods aside from sweet potato. Keepers have started giving her mini fruitsicles—small versions of the frozen fruit-filled treats Mei Xiang and Tian Tian recieve. Bao Bao enjoys them, but so does Mei. She usually helps Bao Bao finish the last bites of her fruitsicles.

Mei and Bao

Abby Wood,Smithsonian's National Zoo

Read previous panda updates.