The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute celebrated 50 years of unprecedented achievement in the care, conservation, breeding, and study of giant pandas. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the Zoo’s in-residence giant panda family—24-year-old male Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), 23-year-old female Mei Xiang (may-SHONG), and their 19-month-old male cub Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji) received specially tailored fruitsicle cakes in honor of the “pandaversary.”

Giant panda Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji received a specially tailored fruitsicle cake in honor of the “pandaversary.” Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

At 8 a.m., Zoo staff presented Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji’s panda-friendly fruitsicle cake to an eager crowd of visitors. Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and Ambassador Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China added the finishing touches to the frozen treat. Keepers gave Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji access to their habitat around 8:10 a.m., and the bears approached the cake with deliberate speed. The base of the cake was made of frozen diluted apple juice and pineapple juice. It was decorated with a red “50” as well as sweet potato, apple, carrot, pear, sugar cane, banana and yellow groove bamboo. Tian Tian received an ornate cake that was similarly adorned around 1 p.m.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors enjoyed lion dance performances, panda-shaped bao buns and calligraphy demonstrations, courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, spoke with the Zoo’s scientists who study giant panda biology and ecology and saw the pandas receive special enrichment treats. The world premiere of the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary on the Zoo’s giant panda program, “The Miracle Panda,” was screened at the Zoo’s Visitor Center Theater at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Giant Panda 50th Anniversary celebration is made possible with the support of Boeing. In addition to attending the event in person, the public watched the pandas enjoy their cakes live on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, sponsored by Chase.

Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute stands beside Ambassador Qin Gang of the People’s Republic of China before presenting a special ice cake to the Zoo’s giant pandas. Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo

Through Aug. 27, the Zoo will hold online and on-site events in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the giant panda program. Details on the events are available on the Zoo’s website.


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