The Panda Memories Project

How Zoo visitors are saying goodbye

For over 50 years, the giant pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation and Biology Institute have delighted and inspired visitors from across the globe. Now, we're preparing to say goodbye.

In September 2023, we invited members of the public to share their favorite moments with Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, Xiao Qi Ji and the rest of the pandas that have called Washington D.C., home. Hundreds of online visitors responded with warm, funny, thought-provoking and bittersweet memories of these beloved bears. Here are a few of their stories:

A Summer Ritual

"The last three panda babies are synonymous with my motherhood journey and my love affair with the Smithsonian's National Zoo. I had my first baby in 2008; we started going to the Zoo regularly when Lucas was an infant..."

He Helped Create the First Panda Team

"My father, Larry Collins, was the first head keeper in charge of Ling Ling and Hsing-Hsing..."

He Held My Hand

"When I was in my mid-twenties and living in [Washington, D.C.], I loved taking long runs to and then through the National Zoo..."

Extraordinary Grief and a Tiny Little Bear

"My brother suddenly passed away in December 2005. A couple days after returning from his funeral, I remembered I had timed tickets to see Tai Shan. It was the furthest thing from my mind..."

Such Incredible Memories

"The first time I saw pandas was back in 2004 when I was 11 years old and then I got to see them in 2022 at 29 at the Smithsonian..."

Some Amazing Friends

"We saw this huge line and thought there was a concert. Instead, everyone was waiting to see a panda..."

I Can Remember Every Detail

"I was seven years old when the pandas first came to the Zoo. I remember watching the news and trying to memorize every detail..."

A Piece of My Heart

"My mother, Elaine Washburn, was an Asia Trail volunteer interpreter in the early 2000's. Mom had been a docent at the Ross Park Zoo in our hometown..."