After More Than 50 Years, the Smithsonian National Zoo Is Returning Its Pandas to China
Once the trio returns to China, there will only be 4 giant pandas left in the U.S.
Since 1972, the Smithsonian National Zoo has been home to giant pandas. But that will all change soon since the 3 giant pandas there will be returned to China by December 7.
Two of the pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, arrived at the zoo as part of an agreement between the zoo and the China Wildlife and Conservation Association. They were originally only supposed to be at the zoo for 10 years so they could participate in a research and breeding program, but the agreement was extended multiple times.
The third panda is the pair’s male cub, Xiao Qi Ji, who celebrated his 3rd birthday this year. In addition to Xiao Qi J, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian had six other cubs; 3 died before they reached adulthood and 3 went back to China. Once the trio returns to China, there will only be 4 giant pandas left in the U.S.; those 4 are at the Atlanta Zoo but are expected to return to China in 2024.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 1,864 giant pandas remain in the wild. These breeding programs have proved successful, with the International Union for Conservation of Nature upgrading the species from “endangered” to “vulnerable” status in 2017.