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Pandas Return!

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., will welcome two giant pandas in 2024.

Two pandas photos are shown side by side. One is sitting on logs and the other is eating bamboo.

Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Bao Li (left) and Qing Bao will soon arrive in the United States!

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is getting ready to welcome some new arrivals. On May 29, the zoo announced that two pandas will be arriving from China by the end of 2024.

China agreed to lend 2-year-old male and female pandas Bao Li (pronounced BOW-lee) and Qing Bao (pronounced ching-BOW) to the National Zoo for 10 years. In exchange, the zoo will pay a $1 million fee each year to help pay for China’s efforts to conserve (save) giant pandas, which are endangered. The agreement also states that any cubs Bao Li and Qing Bao have must be sent to China by age 4. 

This will be the first time pandas have lived at the National Zoo since November 2023, when the zoo sent its previous panda pair back to China, along with their cub. Before that, the zoo had pandas for 23 years in a row. Bao Li’s mother, Bao Bao, was born there in 2013 and sent to China at age 3.

By studying and breeding pandas, the National Zoo helps contribute to conservation efforts. But China’s willingness to lend out the bears, which are native only to China, is also an example of two countries working together.

“Through this partnership, we have grown the panda population…and learned what’s needed to protect wild pandas,” said Brandie Smith, director of the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Pandas are very popular with visitors to the National Zoo. For many people, the zoo isn’t the same without its adorable black-and-white bears. Eighth grader Sofia Valle visited the National Zoo recently and was disappointed to learn there were no pandas. She hopes to return after Bao Li and Qing Bao arrive.

“[Pandas are] my favorite animal,” Sofia told the Associated Press. “They’re so fluffy! And they’re lazy like me.”

The video below begins with Bao Li. Qing Bao appears after about 43 seconds.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

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Did You Know?

Four giant pandas in a wooded area

© Hungchungchih/Dreamstime.com

No two pandas have the same black eye patches. Scientists think the patches may help pandas recognize each other.

A Real-Life Dragon

A large lizard is running toward the camera on sandy, rocky ground.

© Uryadnikov Sergey/stock.adobe.com

The word dragon might make you think of a huge, fire-breathing lizard that guards a castle. No real animal fits this description, but the Komodo dragon comes the closest. Found only on the Lesser Sunda Islands, in Indonesia, the Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard, with some weighing more than 300 pounds (135 kilograms). A fearsome predator, it hides along trails, waiting to pounce on cattle, deer, pigs, and other animals that might pass by.

As a hunter, the Komodo dragon has a lot going for it. It’s a fast runner, an excellent climber, and a good swimmer. It also has sharp teeth and claws. And while it doesn’t breathe fire, its mouth does produce venom, a substance that can harm or kill many animals.

I’m a Panda, Too

A red and white, raccoon-like animal stands on a tree branch.

© Mivr/stock.adobe.com

Did you know that there are two “panda” species, the giant panda and the lesser panda, shown above? You can read about both at Britannica!

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Word of the Day

conservation

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources

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