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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 6 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.

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 6:00 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.

Bao Bao's First Year

August 19

The past year at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has been a very special one. We've been able to watch Mei Xiang raise a cub from the first moments of her birth, when she was pink and had yet to open her eyes. Now Bao Bao is just over 40 pounds and ventures high into the trees in her yard every day, and is starting to eat solid foods. On Saturday, August 23, we'll celebrate Bao Bao's first birthday and the conservation success she symbolizes. She was one of 42 surviving cubs born last year, and she represents 42 years of research between Zoo and Chinese scientists.

Join the celebration Saturday at the Zoo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.! Bao Bao and Mei Xiang will receive a specially made frozen cake at 11:30 a.m. Keepers will give panda talks at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Guests will enjoy complimentary Dandan (dahn-dahn) noodles (a cold dish from Sichuan province where the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong is located) on a first-come, first-served basis. Help us celebrate and tweet your birthday wishes for Bao Bao and spread the love of panda conservation using #BaoBaoBday.

Today, Bao Bao got an extra-special birthday present: She won the Smithsonian Summer Showdown! She was named "most iconic in the Smithsonian." After sweeping the science category, she was up against the Star Spangled Banner Flag, the Landsdowne portrait of George Washington, and the Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land." All are worthy competitors, but none embody the spirit of the Smithsonian quite like Bao Bao. She is 100 percent Smithsonian-made and embodies the cutting-edge science that the Smithsonian does every day.

Also just in time for Bao Bao's birthday: the premiere webisode of the Smithsonian Channel's Wild Inside. The video chronicles Bao Bao's first year and provides a peek at life at the panda habitat. A few of Bao Bao's keepers also make an appearance in the video and talk about life with Bao Bao and panda conservation. Watch the webisode and share it with #BaoBaoBday!

Read previous panda updates.