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It's Panda-monium at the Smithsonian National Zoo in honor of popular panda family

March 19 2022
3 min read
It's Panda-monium at the Smithsonian National Zoo in honor of popular panda family
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Giant pandas have been absolute rock stars at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for the past five decades. For the next six months, these adorable, bamboo-loving bears who love to play in the snow will be the center of attention for a 50th-anniversary celebration. The celebration marks the launch of the panda program at the zoo, known officially as the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

“After 50 years, giant pandas remain an iconic species for our zoo,” said Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, in a press release. "Being able to introduce hundreds of millions of people worldwide to pandas and inspiring them to care about their conservation for five decades, coupled with our scientific breakthroughs, is a milestone truly worth celebrating.”

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The "Pandaversary" gets underway April 16. There are a number of special events and exhibits planned for the zoo including the debut of a new documentary: "The Miracle Panda." It will be screened at the Visitor Center Theater for a limited time, and it's free and open to the public.

There will be special lion dance performances that day, as well as special lectures from the zoo's scientists. Visitors can enjoy panda-shaped bao buns and also get to see the pandas receive special enrichment treats.

We don't know what exactly "enrichment treats" are, but we're betting the pandas will make it look ridiculously cute as they chew them up. You can get all the details about the activities planned for the pandas' 50th anniversary, as well as how to get tickets to visit, on the zoo's official website.

Mei Xiang and cub Tai Shan (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian National Zoo)

The zoo's current panda family consists of 24-year-old male Tian Tian, 23-year-old female Mei Xiang and their 18-month-old male cub Xiao Qi Ji. Like the previous pandas, they have drawn visitors from across the U.S. and around the world, in person and on the internet, where their too-cute-for-words behavior on the Giant Panda Cam has made them the furriest influencers on YouTube.

(Need proof of the overwhelming cuteness? We give you pandas playing in the snow -- in SLO-MO!)

Related: A new national park dedicated to giant pandas is opening in China

While no one can debate the cuteness of the pandas, they have also served a much greater role as symbols of a global conservation effort to save the species from extinction.

Pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian National Zoo)

Ever since the first pair of pandas arrived in 1972 as gifts from China after then-President Richard Nixon's historic visit to that country, the pandas have inspired groundbreaking efforts in the care and study of the species in a collaborative effort between the zoo and China's scientists.

The work isn't done, though. Pandas remain vulnerable. Only 1,800 pandas are estimated to exist in the wild. The pandas that take up residence at the zoo are helping them survive by allowing the further study and exploration of these amazing animals.

Featured photo by Smithsonian Institution
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