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.
PLEASE NOTE: The panda house will be closed Feb. 24. Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Bao Bao will be visible outside until early afternoon as usual.
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.
It’s hard to believe, but Bao Bao is almost 18 months old! Eighteen months is a big milestone for giant panda cubs because they stop nursing and start living separately from their mothers. Bao Bao started the weaning process naturally a few months ago, and now she’s eating significantly more bamboo and solid foods. She also eats separately from Mei Xiang and spends about 6 hours separated from her each day. They will spend increasingly more time apart until Bao Bao is living on her own. Bao Bao has been doing well during the time she spends apart from Mei. Our panda team expects that the process will be complete in early March.
Last month our panda team and veterinarians performed an ultrasound along with human cardiologist Dr. Rosenthal on Mei Xiang as part of a routine checkup. She is in great health. Mei usually participates in ultrasounds when the panda team is monitoring her for possible pregnancies, and the cardiac ultrasound was performed much the same way. She lay down in the training chute while a keeper gave her honey water, a favorite treat, and Dr. Rosenthal looked at her heart and abdomen. She also allowed Dr. Rosenthal to perform the ultrasound while she was standing. The panda keepers have been working with Mei Xiang and Tian Tian to perform procedures like ultrasounds, blood draws and routine exams without anesthesia for a very long time, and the pandas are always given the choice whether or not to participate. They almost always choose to participate. Dr. Rosenthal brought all of his own equipment—the same equipment used to perform cardiac ultrasounds on humans—for the exam. And since the ultrasound for Mei was successful, the team will follow the same protocol for an ultrasound with Tian Tian during his next routine checkup.Read previous panda updates.