The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China hosted a housewarming party today, Feb. 23, sponsored by Airbnb, to celebrate the new exhibit for visitors inside the Zoo’s giant panda house. Steven Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute; Minister Xu Xueyuan of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China; and David Rubenstein, Smithsonian Regent and co-founder of The Carlyle Group; cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially welcome guests to the new exhibit.
“So much has changed for giant pandas, for the better, in the past decade,” Monfort said. “This updated exhibit is really inspiring because it shows how much of a difference we can make with science and cooperation. Smithsonian and Chinese scientists have been collaborating for decades, and visitors can see the results of our work as they walk through the panda house.”
The new interactive exhibit inside the panda house teaches visitors about the ecology, history, reproduction, conservation and care of giant pandas. Through a series of games and activities, visitors will learn about giant pandas and their natural habitat. Visitors can “navigate” the effects of habitat loss on bamboo forests from the perspective of a giant panda spinning and whirling a maze game. Trivia buffs and future scientists can test their knowledge of species that share panda habitat through a digital matching game that uses real camera-trap photos from Smithsonian scientists’ work in China. And visitors will be able see how powerful a panda’s jaws are compared to many other carnivores.
Fun and surprising facts about pandas are peppered throughout the exhibit. New photos and videos will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the Zoo’s panda habitat. Videos will show how the pandas are trained to cooperate for veterinary exams, and how the keepers keep the pandas active and stimulated. The exhibit will also chronicle the advances that panda scientists in China and at the Smithsonian have made during the past four decades.
Visitors to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat housewarming party enjoyed special activities and treats as part of the celebration for the new exhibit. The giant pandas and red pandas each received special frozen treats, specially made by the Zoo’s department of nutrition to look like noodle bowls. Visitors had treats of their own to enjoy during the housewarming. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China served dumplings. And Airbnb served free hot chocolate. Young visitors also had the opportunity to take a piece of the panda house home with them—a coloring sheet showing the many species that share the same habitat as pandas. The coloring sheet featured a mural that is inside the panda house and is available to download from the Zoo’s website.
In lieu of bringing housewarming gifts, the Zoo gave visitors a special commemorative limited-edition print. The print is a reproduction of an original painting created by the Zoo’s giant pandas Tian Tian (t-YEN t-YEN), Mei Xiang (mei-SHONG) and Bei Bei (BAY-BAY). The prints were available one-per-family at the Panda Plaza gift shop while the 5,000 copies lasted—no purchase required. It was the first time an original painting by the pandas had ever been given away at the Zoo.
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Photos: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Video: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute