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Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute Renews Giant Panda Breeding Agreement

Giant pandas, which have been icons and ambassadors for the efforts to save the species in Washington, D.C., since 1972, will continue to live at the Smithsonian's National Zoo through the end of 2020. The new breeding agreement signed by Zoo Director Dennis Kelly and Li Qingwen, deputy secretary general of the China Wildlife and Conservation Association (CWCA), will take effect Dec. 7, 2015, through Dec. 7, 2020.

The terms of the agreement are exactly the same as the current one, stipulating that the National Zoo and CWCA will conduct cooperative research projects, the Zoo will pay $500,000 per year to support conservation efforts in China and any cubs born at the National Zoo may stay until the age of 4. Both parents and any offspring remain under the ownership of China. In addition to adults Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), the Zoo is home to 2-year-old Bao Bao (BOW-BOW) and 3-month-old Bei Bei (BAY-BAY).

We know the community is fond of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian—I certainly am—so it's great to know they will stay at the National Zoo, said Kelly. Every giant panda is part of a larger conservation effort. The best part of this agreement is that we will continue our research and collaboration with our Chinese colleagues on reproduction, habitat and wildlife disease issues, with the ultimate goal of maintaining and growing the wild population of giant pandas.

In September, David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group and member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, pledged a second $4.5 million gift to the Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, funding its giant panda research and conservation program through the end of 2020. The gift will support conservation efforts in China—including preserving and creating more giant panda habitat—the study of wildlife diseases, more professional training programs, upgrades to the giant panda habitat and exhibit at the National Zoo, care for the pandas living at the Zoo and public education about the species and conservation.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have lived at the National Zoo since Dec. 6, 2000. Both pandas were born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong from parents that were born in the wild. Mei Xiang, which means beautiful fragrance, is 17 years old, and Tian Tian, meaning more and more, is 18 years old. Tai Shan (tie-SHON), their first cub, was born July 9, 2005, and has lived in China since February 2010.

Giant pandas, which have been icons and ambassadors for the efforts to save the species in Washington, D.C., since 1972, will continue to live at the Smithsonian's National Zoo through the end of 2020. The new breeding agreement signed by Zoo Director Dennis Kelly and Li Qingwen, deputy secretary general of the China Wildlife and Conservation Association (CWCA), will take effect Dec. 7, 2015, through Dec. 7, 2020.

The terms of the agreement are exactly the same as the current one, stipulating that the National Zoo and CWCA will conduct cooperative research projects, the Zoo will pay $500,000 per year to support conservation efforts in China and any cubs born at the National Zoo may stay until the age of 4. Both parents and any offspring remain under the ownership of China. In addition to adults Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), the Zoo is home to 2-year-old Bao Bao (BOW-BOW) and 3-month-old Bei Bei (BAY-BAY).