WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, Asia Trail keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) gathered in celebration as they marked the 25th birthday of the beloved giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat.

The occasion was filled with excitement as animal care staff presented Mei Xiang with a special panda-friendly fruitsicle cake, thoughtfully crafted by the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Science. The multi-tiered cake featured a delightful “25” topper and was constructed using frozen diluted apple juice. Adding mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, apple slices, and bamboo gave the festive treat a delightful decorative flair.

Giant panda Mei Xiang celebrates her 25th birthday with a fruitsicle cake. Photo credit: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute Credit: Roshan Patel / Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Mei Xiang, the treasured giant panda, has been a joy and fascination for visitors and animal enthusiasts alike. To ensure that fans from around the globe could share in the joyous occasion, the NZCBI’s Giant Panda Cam, generously sponsored by Boeing, provided a live stream of Mei Xiang’s birthday festivities. Virtual visitors were excited as the beloved panda enjoyed her special day.

Over the years, Mei Xiang has become an ambassador for her species and has played a crucial role in conservation efforts. As a resident of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo since 2000, she has captured the hearts of millions worldwide. Her longevity and well-being have been of utmost importance to the dedicated team of keepers and conservationists at NZCBI.

The celebration kicked off at 9 a.m. with the meticulously crafted fruitsicle cake presentation. Mei Xiang wasted no time savoring the delectable treat, showcasing her playful and content demeanor as she indulged in the birthday surprise. The keepers looked on with pride, knowing that they had contributed to the happiness of this incredible animal.

Dr. Nancy Hertzog, the head of the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Science, shared her thoughts on the cake’s creation, saying, “We wanted to make Mei Xiang’s 25th birthday extra special. Crafting this fruitsicle cake with natural ingredients was a culinary challenge and an expression of our deep affection for her.”

The birthday celebration served as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of giant panda conservation. While the giant panda population has shown signs of recovery due to conservation efforts, they remain vulnerable. Initiatives like those undertaken by the NZCBI are essential in safeguarding their future.

The Director of NZCBI, Dr. Steve Monfort, emphasized, “Mei Xiang’s birthday reminds us of the urgency to protect these magnificent animals and their habitat. The National Zoo remains committed to ensuring a thriving population of giant pandas in the wild.”

As the celebration drew to a close, virtual and on-site visitors joined together in singing “Happy Birthday” to Mei Xiang. This gesture showcased people’s deep connection and affection towards this iconic panda.

Looking ahead, Mei Xiang’s health and well-being will continue to be the primary focus of the NZCBI team. With the dedicated care and support she receives, it is hoped that she will continue to thrive and be an inspiration for generations to come.

Mei Xiang’s 25th birthday celebration was a moment of joy and reflection, highlighting the significance of conservation efforts for the giant panda species. With ongoing dedication and global cooperation, the legacy of Mei Xiang and her fellow pandas can be preserved, ensuring a brighter future for these remarkable creatures.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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