Giant Panda FAQs

No. The Zoo's former pandas have returned to China.

The Zoo entered into its Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) in December 2000 when giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived at the Zoo. The initial agreement between the Zoo and CWCA was a 10-year agreement; it has been renewed three times since 2010. As part of the terms of the agreement, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, departed for China on Nov. 8, 2023. 

Ever since these charismatic bears  arrived at the Zoo in 1972, animal care staff and scientists have worked closely with Chinese colleagues to study giant panda biology, behavior, breeding, reproduction  and disease. The Zoo celebrated the 50th anniversary of its giant panda program in 2022 and hopes to continue this work in the future. 

The Giant Panda Cam is offline now that the giant pandas have departed for China. Virtual visitors can still enjoy NZCBI’s other webcams featuring Asian elephants, naked mole-rats and African lions as well as temporary webcams such as the Black-footed Ferret Cam.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo's two adult giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, arrived on December 6, 2000. Ever since the Zoo received Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling from China in 1972 as part of President Nixon's historic visit, scientists here have been leaders in the field of giant panda biology and conservation. The Zoo is continuing that leadership through research involving the new pandas and research in China that will help save giant pandas in the wild. Furthermore, giant pandas can inspire visitors to care for wildlife and threatened ecosystems around the world. They are ambassadors for conservation.

Giant pandas are adapted to living in high-altitude forests in the mountains of central China, and so can easily deal with the wintry weather of Washington, D.C. However, the heat and humidity of the summers here are more difficult for them. Therefore, the Zoo has installed air-conditioned grottos and misting sprays in their renovated outdoor enclosure so the pandas can stay outside all summer long, if they choose to.

In the wild, giant pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo. Here at the Zoo, they are fed bamboo, as well as highly nutritious biscuits, carrots and apples.

The Zoo's Department of Nutrition grows bamboo at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. It also cuts bamboo from 15 stands located in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Thanks for offering, but the Zoo does not accept bamboo donations. Please support the Zoo's panda conservation efforts by donating online.

No. Like any bear, giant pandas are very strong and potentially dangerous, so staff never go in an enclosure with them.

Giant pandas are a vulnerable species. They are difficult to census in the wild, but scientists believe there are about 1,864 remaining in the wild. These individuals live in scattered populations in central China, mostly in Sichuan Province, but also in Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces. Giant pandas specialize in eating bamboo, so if the temperate bamboo forests in the mountains of central China continue to be cut down, there will be no room for giant pandas in the wild. This is why it is so crucial to support conservation research in China, and why there needs to be a population of giant pandas in zoos as an insurance policy against extinction.

The giant panda is a member of the bear family, which scientists call the Ursidae. Among the bears, it is most closely related to the spectacled bear of South America.

The red panda, sometimes called the lesser panda, is a raccoon-sized mammal that lives in the same kind of habitat as giant pandas but ranges over a larger area in Asia. Its fur is a reddish color, and it eats bamboo. Red pandas are not related to giant pandas.

Panda gestation length ranges from 90 to 180 days, with an average pregnancy lasting 135 days. This wide variation in gestation occurs because the fertilized egg usually floats freely in the mother's uterus before it implants and begins developing. Once the embryo is attached to the uterine wall, its development continues until a panda is born; newborn pandas are blind, very small and without almost any fur. A newborn panda weighs about 3 to 5 ounces. In American black bears, the actual period of time that the embryo develops following implantation is about eight weeks. For pandas, actual development time is probably similar. Much of a panda's physical development occurs after birth.

Pandas are solitary animals, but they vocalize extensively during social interactions. They "chirp" during mating and "honk" in distress. A "bleat" (a twittering goat sound) is a friendly contact call. A "chomp" (a rapid opening and closing of the mouth so the teeth audibly meet) is a mild defensive threat. A "bark" is used to scare an enemy. A "squeal" indicates submission or pain.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo's website has plenty of information about visiting the Zoo, including hours, parking, transportation, driving instructions and more. Admission to the Zoo is FREE.

Before the pandas departed in November 2023, online visitors were able to see the pandas virtually through the Zoo's Panda Cam. Visitors can still see the page to look back at special panda moments over the years.

Many people volunteer at the Zoo. For complete information, including whom to contact, read about volunteering with the Zoo.

Students are encouraged to look through the giant panda page to find answers to their report questions.

All of the Smithsonian's National Zoo's information on giant pandas is located on this website. The Zoo has no additional information to send.