Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Mei Xiang

News from the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat

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

  • 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 4 p.m.
  • Flash photography and video are welcome, but please refrain from setting up tripods, or other stationary equipment.

On high visitation days, 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.

March 23

This update was written by keeper Nicole MacCorkle.

Hopefully Friday morning was the last hurrah for winter 2014-2015. While our pandas enjoy the snowy weather and all the tobogganing opportunities that it can bring, it also makes things more challenging logistically. While long-time National Zoo panda followers recall our first cub, Tai Shan, spending most of his independent days in panda yard 3, we wanted to update it for Bao Bao. However, bad weather has stalled progress on our "Bao Bao proofing" operations many times in recent weeks. We have learned over the last 19 months that she looks for different opportunities for adventure than her parents or her big brother. Even with the weather delays, we expect work to be completed sometime next week. In the meantime, we rotate three bears between two yards on many days. Mei Xiang seems to be much more content now that she is back in "her" part of the panda house, and Bao Bao is certainly making herself at home in enclosure 4. As many parents in our metropolitan area are experiencing with their own children, sometimes Bao Bao can get restless inside, but overall she seems to be making the most of it, and enjoys watching the progress of the work from the runway that leads out to her yard. Bao Bao has located some preferred napping spots in enclosure 4, and will no doubt find some new favorites in her new and improved yard this week! No need to fret about the hemlock tree—after breeding season, we will have the flexibility to rotate all of the pandas through all three of the yards, just as we always have. (But they will continue sharing our two available yards for a little bit longer.) Bao Bao's reunion with her favorite tree will most likely be marked with a nice nap for old time's sake!

Read previous panda updates.