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Giant pandas to return to National Zoo in Washington, D.C. later this year

Qing Bao (Photo by Roshan Patel)

A new pair of giant pandas will join the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. by the end of the year.

Bao Li and Qing Bao will join the zoo, according to a video announcement released this morning.

The news comes just six months after giant pandas Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji went to China.

“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.,” said Brandie Smith, National Zoo John and Adrienne Mars director. “This historic moment is proof positive our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has made an irrefutable impact. Through this partnership, we have grown the panda population, advanced our shared understanding of how to care for this beloved bear and learned what’s needed to protect wild pandas and preserve native habitat.”

In the video announcement, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden joined Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Smith to reveal pandas are coming back to the nation’s capital.

Per standard procedure, the pandas will be quarantined in the panda house for a minimum of 30 days upon arriving to the National Zoo. Quarantine of new animals is a routine practice in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to reduce risk of introducing parasites or disease to other animals. During this period, they will have access to enclosures inside the panda house.

A team of keepers, nutritionists and veterinarians will care for them the entire time. Animal care staff will provide the pandas with a variety of enrichment items to keep them active and encourage them to explore their new environment. After quarantine ends, the bears will have a few more weeks to settle into their new habitat.

The public debut date will be announced as soon as the animal care team feels the bears are ready to meet visitors.

Bao Li (Photo by Roshan Patel)

The giant pandas

Bao Li: [BOW-lee] Two-year-old male Bao Li—whose name means “treasure” and “energetic” in Mandarin Chinese—was born Aug. 4, 2021, at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan to father An An and mother Bao Bao. Not only was Bao Li’s mother born at NZCBI in 2013, his grandparents, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, lived at NZCBI from 2000 to 2023, where they served as ambassadors for their species. Bao Li currently lives at the Shenshuping Base in Wolong.

Qing Bao: [ching-BOW] Two-year-old female Qing Bao—whose name means “green” and “treasure” in Mandarin Chinese—was born Sept. 12, 2021, at CCRCGP, to father Qing Qing and mother Jia Mei. Qing, her father’s name, evokes the lush and mountainous habitat where giant pandas roam in the wild. Bao, which means “treasure,” reflects that she is cherished by all who know her. Qing Bao lives at Dujiangyan Base in Sichuan.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.