Zoo Celebrates Five-Millionth Panda Visitor
July 15, 2003
Contacts (Media only)
Peper Long or Mike Morgan
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo celebrated the five-millionth visitor to the Fujifilm Giant Panda Conservation Habitat on July 15.
The lucky guest, Susan Goi from Singapore, received a Fujifilm Zoom Date 35mm camera, an ADOPT-A-Habitat Explorers Kit, and an Animal Planet gift bag. The next 500 visitors to the exhibit received Giant Panda Video Album CDs and giant panda trading cards, courtesy of Fujifilm, the Zoo's partner in conservation education.
The pandas, Mei Xiang, who turns five next week, and Tian Tian, who turns six in August, have been the center of increased attention in recent months due to their first breeding (which occurred in April). Zoo Director Dr. Lucy Spelman said that although a pregnancy is unlikely due to the young age of the pandas and the brevity of the mating, zoo scientists have used this opportunity to learn more about panda breeding for their ongoing conservation and research efforts. Currently, scientists cannot diagnose panda pregnancies via hormone testing.
The five-millionth visitor was determined through an informal check-in system: visitors who pass through the panda exhibit gates are counted by FONZ volunteers using hand-clickers. Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) is a nonprofit organization that supports education and visitor programs of the National Zoo and operates guest services at the Panda Exhibit.
John Beebe, of FUJI PHOTO FILM U.S.A., INC and FONZ Executive Director Clinton A. Fields presented Ms. Goi with her prizes.
Fujifilm, which donated the camera prize, previously contributed $7.8 million to help fund three key elements of the Zoo's giant panda conservation and education effort: the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang from China; the construction of a state-of-the-art research and habitat facility for the pandas that will be part of the planned Asia Trail; and a new Conservation and Science Education Program designed to help children and adults learn more about giant pandas, and the conservation of all wildlife and habitats.
The giant pandas are the focus of an ambitious conservation and breeding program at the National Zoo. Little is known about the perceptual or cognitive abilities of giant pandas and the role that these abilities may play in foraging. National Zoo researchers are studying Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and giant pandas in other zoos, and have found that pandas are able to use spatial cues such as landmarks, to locate food.
Research has shown that they are not able to use olfactory (smell) or visual cues – such as color and shape - alone to find food. However, they are able to learn to use visual cues when paired with spatial cues. This research is providing insight on the ability of these species to forage using sensory and spatial information, as well as improving our understanding of the natural history and evolution of foraging strategies of these species.
This information is essential to learning
how these endangered species can adapt and survive in
an increasingly shrinking habitat. Fewer than 1,000
pandas exist in their native forested habitat in central
China. Another 120 live in breeding facilities in China,
and 20 others live in zoos outside of China.