The Student News Site of Damascus High School

The Buzz

The Buzz

The Buzz

The Legacy of The Smithsonian National Zoo Pandas

Smithsonian Zoo

   For the past 50 years, the giant pandas who resided at the National Zoo have been a factor in the zoo’s success and played a role in its ability to lead the country in panda research. Now, the pandas are leaving and the people are wondering why and what will happen next.


   The zoo changed forever on April 16, 1972, when pandas Hsing-Hsing and Ling Ling first arrived at the zoo following President Nixon’s historic visit to China where he became enamored with the majestic creature. Since then the zoo has been a leader in giant panda research where they have helped to study things like giant panda behavior, health, habitat and reproduction. Ling-Ling died in 1992 at 23 years of age due to heart failure and Hsing-Hsing died seven years later in 1999 at the age of 28 after being euthanized due to age-related diseases.

   After suffering the loss of their beloved giant pandas in the ‘90s, a deal was struck with the Chinese government. Two giant pandas would live at the zoo for ten years in exchange for ten million dollars which was raised by various donors and in 2000, the pandas Mei Xing and Tian Tian arrived at the zoo. In 2005 the zoo reached a milestone when the first panda cub born at the zoo survived. Tian Tian was sent back to China at the age of four to participate in breeding and conservation efforts. In 2015 the director of the zoo and the secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association signed an agreement stating that the pair would stay at the zoo until 2015 which was then extended until 2020. 

   In 2019 the zoo publicly opened its current giant panda enclosure, the David. M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat which was celebrated by all of the local panda and zoo lovers as well as the zoo’s staff. One year later, the agreement was extended for the final time to 2023

Story continues below advertisement

   The Smithsonian has been known for its giant pandas since their arrival in 1972  and has participated in, led and conducted research on giant pandas both in captivity and in the wild. Zoo lovers are left to question how the zoo will get past the loss of its most popular animal residents and why the pandas are leaving. 

   While the popular D.C. attraction has not announced the reason why the contract has not been extended, people are left to speculate that it is the United States’ tension with China and the Chinese government. In the past, China has been known to either loan or provide pandas to zoos in countries that are favorable to them. With the contract ending this year and our current situation with China, it is fair to assume that is the reason that all three pandas are leaving. 

Panda Palooza poster (Smithsonian Zoo) 

   With the looming departure of the pandas, visitors are left with just under four months to see Mei Xing, Tian Tian and their cub. Panda lovers have one last chance to celebrate the giant panda family during the Panda Palooza, a series of events all set to celebrate the panda family which is set to last from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1. Visitors who may not be able to visit the zoo campus before the pandas depart can still check up on the pandas for the next upcoming months through the zoo’s giant panda cam. While the pandas are physically leaving the zoo, their legacy and memory will always be ingrained in the zoo and its legacy as a whole. 


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Sophia Cooper
Sophia Cooper, Editor-In-Chief
Sophia Cooper is the Editor-in-Chief. She is a senior and this is her third year at The Buzz. When Sophia is not writing for The Buzz she is listening to music, practicing her trombone, drawing, or reading. Her favorite song is Before You Go by Lewis Capaldi and her favorite movie is Beauty and The Beast 2017 live action version on Disney+. Her favorite thing to write about is  international relations, current events, or Broadway news. After high school, she plans to study Journalism at a four year institutuon.

Comments (0)

All The Buzz Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *