Pandas Coming Back to Smithsonian National Zoo

May 31, 2024

We’re thrilled to announce the next chapter of our breeding and conservation partnership begins by welcoming two new bears, including a descendent of our beloved panda family, to Washington, D.C.

John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Brandie Smith, announcing on Wednesday that the National Zoo and the Chinese government reached an agreement for a pair of adult pandas to arrive in the U.S. capitol by the end of 2024.

Important Context: Giant pandas – black and white bears indigenous to China – have become a symbol of diplomacy (aka “panda diplomacy”). In fact, after President Richard Nixon visited China, reestablishing diplomatic relations, China shared these indigenous bears with America. Pandas originally reached the U.S. as a gift to First Lady Patricia Nixon. After the death of those pandas, the U.S. and China entered into an exchange agreement, where pandas came to the National Zoo and the National Zoo contributed to conservation efforts. However, renewed agreements came to a close in 2023, leaving many to wonder about when and if pandas would return to the zoo.

Why It Matters: The National Zoo announced a new agreement with China this week and two pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, will arrive by the end of this year. While diplomatic tensions between China and the U.S. and China remain high in other ways, the zoo’s director said, “This historic moment is proof positive our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has made an irrefutable impact.”

Big Picture: Other zoos also plan to receive pandas soon, including the San Diego Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo. Currently, the only giant pandas remaining in the U.S. are at Zoo Atlanta.

Read More: The Panda Party is back on as giant pandas will return to Washington’s National Zoo by year’s end (The Associated Press)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas