City Cast

Why the Pandas Are Leaving DC

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on September 20
Xiao Qi Ji Wrestling with Mama Panda.

Xiao Qi Ji Wrestling with Mama Panda. (Amaury Laporte/Wikimedia Commons)

In December, all three pandas at the National Zoo are flying back to China. But before they do, the zoo is hosting one last farewell party — Panda Palooza – starting this weekend.

Party With the Pandas:

The family-friendly event is nine days long and will include live music, panda-themed food, crafts, and a “panda film fest” with movies like "Kung Fu Panda" and "The Miracle Panda.” Make sure not to miss the pandas’ ice cake breakfast this Saturday at 9 a.m.!

A Little History:

Pandas first arrived at the National Zoo in 1972 as a diplomatic gesture during the Nixon era. They’ve since become D.C.’s biggest celebrities. Unfortunately, the original pandas passed away with no living cubs.

In 2000, the zoo’s current pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were brought to D.C., but this time, they were on loan. They had four cubs, all of which were returned to China, except for little Xiao Qi Ji. As per the original loan agreement, the pandas must now return to China for their luxurious retirement at the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

Xiao Qi Ji's first birthday party.

Xiao Qi Ji's first birthday party. (angela n./Wikimedia Commons)

Will We Ever Get Pandas Again?

The zoo has said that it’s been “working with our Chinese partners to develop a new giant panda program,” so there’s hope. In the meantime, we can still bask in the cuteness of the zoo’s newest babies, including three meerkat pups and a western lowland gorilla named Zahra.

Hey DC

Want to know what's happening in D.C.? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey DC. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

Urban Almanac

See All

The latest in DC