Pandas coming to DC -again- in 2024 was the big news from the National Zoo on May 28. The Zoo’s previous pandas were returned late last year and the Panda Enclosure has been sadly empty since then.

The Two Pandas Coming to DC

The National Zoo in Washington, DC announced on Wednesday that the two giant pandas coming to DC —Bao Li, a male, and Qing Bao, a female, both two years old—will be arriving in Washington by the end of the year.

National Zoo has partnered with China to host giant pandas and run a conservation program since the 1970s.  Lots of Washingtonians are pleased that the zoo will once again be home to these beloved creatures, who are a major attraction and cherished part of the city’s culture.

At least one of the new pandas has a connection already to DC.  Bao Li is the son of Bao Bao, a female giant panda born at the zoo in 2013. His name, pronounced “BOW-lee,” means “an active and vital power.”  Qing Bao, pronounced “ching-BOW,” means “precious” and “treasure.” While the exact arrival date of the new pandas is not yet announced, a zoo spokesperson informed the Washington Post that they are likely to arrive in the fall, as it’s preferable to transport animals in cooler weather.

The Pandas New Home

Pandas coming to DCCurrently, the zoo is renovating its David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat for the two pandas coming to DC.  The National Zoo is adding new climbing structures and water features to encourage exercise, as well as a new ventilation system for improved air quality and temperature control. Additionally, the zoo is updating its popular giant panda cam, which will be reactivated after the pandas’ arrival for online viewing.  David Rubenstein is the founder of the Carlyle Group and the new owner of the Baltimore Orioles.  Some of his charitable donations and sponsorships include repairing the Washington Monument after the earthquake and buying a rare copy at auction of the Magna Carta for the National Archives.

Everyone should have a new home!  If you are looking for a new home in the DC area, just click here to start your search – unless you are a panda – in which case I can’t help!

Pandamania is Not New!

The pandas coming to DC is very exciting for lots of people but it is definitely not a new phenomenon. In fact, the pandas have been so popular that in 2004 the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities launched Pandamania DC, a citywide urban art exhibition. Local artists decorated, painted, and accessorized 150 pandas that went on display at street corners, outside Metro stations, and at various other locations throughout the city.  The exhibition ran throughout the summer of 2004, from May to September.  Pandamania DC ended with an auction in October, with proceeds going to benefit the DC Commission on the Arts grant and arts education programs.

Let the Fundraising Begin

Hosting the pandas in DC is not inexpensive.  The zoo will provide free air and ground transportation for the pandas coming to DC and their Chinese keepers. Upon arrival, the pandas will be quarantined in the zoo’s panda house for at least 30 days to minimize the risk of introducing parasites or diseases to other animals. They will make their public debut once they have acclimated to their new habitat and are ready for visitors.

To support these renovations and other aspects of the giant panda program, the zoo has launched a fundraising drive aiming to raise $25 million from public and corporate donations over the next decade. Given that when the previous pandas Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and their son Xiao Qi Ji returned to China late last year, no one was sure when or if China would lease more pandas to the zoo (due to geopolitical tensions between the two countries) it is great news that DC will soon have two pandas at the Zoo.

According to the zoo, Bao Li and Qing Bao will be in Washington on a lease that extends until 2034. The zoo will pay the China Wildlife and Conservation Association $1 million annually during this period.

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