For Release: December 8, 2005
John Gibbons (202) 633-3083
National Zoo’s “Tai Shan”
at the Zoo’s Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat
Tai Shan, the giant panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, greeted the general public today for the first time, as the Zoo opened the cub’s exhibit for limited public viewing. Tai Shan (tie-SHON) has been off public exhibit since his birth on July 9, 2005, to give him time to develop and bond with his mother.
The cub lives indoors at the National Zoo’s Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, which has been closed to the public since July. Beginning today, the indoor habitat is open for limited, ticket-only public viewing for two hours each day, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., through Jan. 2, 2006. The Zoo will likely expand these hours in January. The outdoor habitat, where the cub’s parents are often seen, has remained open.
The National Zoo distributed free tickets to 13,000 members of the public to view the cub in 10-minute shifts from Dec. 8 to Jan. 2. An estimated 600 people are expected each day. An additional 18,000 tickets were available to Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) members. The Zoo has informed eager Tai Shan admirers that they may not actually see him; it is not possible to predict exactly when the cub will be visible in the exhibit or tucked away in his den out of sight.
Tai Shan, whose name means “peaceful mountain” in Chinese, weighs more than 22 pounds. He is the first cub for both mother, Mei Xiang (may-SHONG), and father, Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN). He was conceived through artificial insemination on March 11, 2005, in a procedure performed by National Zoo scientists and veterinarians, after they determined no successful mating occurred between Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.
During the press briefing today, National Zoo Director John Berry noted the important contributions the Zoo’s lead corporate sponsor, Fujifilm, has made to giant panda conservation. Fujifilm has contributed $7.8 million to the National Zoo for giant panda conservation and education programs, as well as a new, state-of-the-art expanded giant panda habitat, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006.
Berry also thanked Animal Planet, the Zoo’s exclusive media sponsor, for its support. Animal Planet has contributed $5 million to the National Zoo’s giant panda conservation programs that are helping to save the species in the wild. Animal Planet’s “A Panda Is Born” premieres on Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. (ET). The program will document the reproduction attempts, artificial insemination, birth and development of Tai Shan, and feature exclusive footage of the cub’s birth.
During the festivities today, Berry also acknowledged several community partners that have contributed to the Zoo’s panda conservation fund: CVS/pharmacy, Hecht's, Panda Express and Whole Foods Market.
To celebrate the cub’s public debut, the National Zoo and its corporate and community sponsors offered visitors a variety of special activities and gifts. Children created books in which they tracked Tai Shan’s development and compared it to their own. National Zoo scientists discussed their giant panda conservation research, including improving veterinary medical care and developing successful reproductive techniques, such as artificial insemination.
Fujifilm invited Zoo visitors to take a photo with a panda-costumed character. Animal Planet helped children make customized pet tags. The National Zoo’s community partners also gave gifts to Zoo visitors. This winter, they are offering unique items in their businesses to support the Zoo’s Giant Panda Conservation Fund.
The four winners of the Pennies for Pandas children’s fundraising contest were present to mark the public opening and get a private tour of the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat. The contest, designed by FONZ, encouraged children ages 6 to 14 to develop creative fundraising techniques to celebrate Tai Shan’s birth and raise money for the Zoo’s Giant Panda Conservation Fund. The contest generated more than $16,000 for giant panda conservation; 159 children from 39 states and the District of Columbia entered the contest.
# # #