Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived at the zoo in December 2000 and will return to China after their latest stay renewal expires on Dec. 7. The zoo’s Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association has been renewed three times since 2010.
“Panda Palooza,” the National Zoo’s nine-day event, began on Sept. 23. The event includes panda-themed activities, a scavenger hunt, live music, and film screenings. It is a chance for people to bid farewell to the two giant pandas and Xiao Qi Ji, their fourth cub, who was born in 2020.
However, the event could be cut short if the federal government shuts down on Oct. 1, the last day of “Panda Palooza.” Given that the National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian, and the Smithsonian will have to close in the event of a government shutdown, it is possible the “Panda Palooza” event may end early.
The National Zoo has housed pandas since 1972, working with China to study the animals’ biology, behavior, and diseases. 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the first arrival of giant pandas at the zoo.
The first pandas to arrive in Washington were Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, who spent 20 years together. Ling-Ling died in 1992 of heart failure at 23 years old. Hsing-Hsing was euthanized in 1999 after suffering from age-related diseases.
In what was an exchange for $10 million under an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, the pandas were expected to stay in the U.S. for ten years, but the agreement was extended multiple times.
Under the original agreement, Mei Xian and Tian Tian’s cubs must be returned to China when they turn four years old. Xiao Qi Ji will be three years old upon departure, but officials confirmed in 2020 that it’s in the cub’s best interest to move with its parents.