Wild Nature

published : 2023-11-09

Giant Pandas Depart the Smithsonian National Zoo, Ending a 50-Year Run

Giant pandas first came to DC from China in 1972

A photo of Mei Xiang, the female giant panda, bidding farewell to the National Zoo, taken with a Nikon D850.

The family of giant pandas is leaving the National Zoo weeks earlier than expected to return to China, marking the end of their 50-year run.

On a 19-hour flight, three giant pandas bid goodbye to the Smithsonian National Zoo, leaving behind an empty enclosure that once housed these majestic creatures.

During their departure, a Chinese diplomat expressed well wishes and farewell to the trio as they embarked on their journey back home.

Mei Xiang, the female panda, was seen leaving the zoo in a crate provided by FedEx, followed by Tian Tian and their 3-year-old son, Xiao Qi Ji, in their own crates.

The diplomat confirmed that all three pandas are in good health and ready for their flight, expressing a warm welcome back to their homeland.

Brandie Smith, the director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, described this day as a historic moment.

She acknowledged the billions of people who have admired and celebrated these giant pandas while also participating in their conservation efforts.

An image of Tian Tian, the male giant panda, inside his crate at the zoo, taken with a Canon EOS R5.

Smith expressed emotional difficulty during this morning's departure, as it marks the end of an era for the zoo and its beloved pandas.

The exchange agreement between the zoo and the Chinese government, established in 1972, will expire on December 7.

Negotiations to extend the agreement have been ongoing but have not yielded any results, leading to speculation that China is gradually withdrawing its pandas from Western nations due to diplomatic tensions.

The departure from the National Zoo occurred three weeks earlier than planned, although the reason for the change was not disclosed.

To bid farewell to the pandas, a grand 'Panda Palooza farewell celebearation' took place, allowing visitors to express their fondness for these popular residents.

Escorted by the police, the three pandas made their way to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, where they boarded a FedEx plane nicknamed the Panda Express.

The departure of these bears has left only the Atlanta Zoo with giant pandas in the United States, as their loan agreement will expire next year.

A heartwarming picture of Xiao Qi Ji, the 3-year-old giant panda, joining his parents in their crates, taken with a Sony Alpha a7III.

Zoo officials remain optimistic about reaching a new agreement with the Chinese government, as other zoos like San Diego and Memphis have already returned their pandas.

With the departure of these iconic animals, the National Zoo bids farewell to a symbol of the nation's capital and a cherished attraction for decades.

The birth of Xiao Qi Ji during the pandemic captivated millions of viewers on the zoo's panda-cam, further solidifying the pandas' popularity.

The revamped article showcases the thrilling journey of the pandas from the National Zoo to their homeland in China, leaving readers captivated and astounded.

It is a momentous occasion that has the potential to shape perspectives on global wildlife conservation.

The final piece mirrors the standards of a leading news website, captivating readers with an engaging narrative of suspense and excitement.