National Zoological Park
Front entrance
38°55′52″N 77°02′59″W / 38.93111°N 77.04972°W / 38.93111; -77.04972
Date openedMay 6, 1889; 134 years ago (1889-05-06)[1]
Location3001 Connecticut Ave. NW,
Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., U.S.
Land areaZoo: 163 acres (66 ha)[2]
SCBI: 3,200-acre (1,300 ha)[3]
No. of animalsZoo: 2,000[2]
SCBI: 30–40 endangered species[3]
No. of species400[2]
Annual visitors1.8 million (2019)[5]
Major exhibitsAmazonia, American Trail, Asia Trail, Bird House, Giant Panda Habitat, Great Ape House, Kids' Farm, Reptile Discovery Center, Small Mammal House, Think Tank
Public transit access Washington Metro
at Cleveland Park or Woodley Park

The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".[6]

The National Zoo has two campuses. The first is a 163-acre (66 ha) urban park located at Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington, D.C., 20 minutes from the National Mall by MetroRail.[7] The other campus is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI; formerly known as the Conservation and Research Center) in Front Royal, Virginia. On this land, there are 180 species of trees, 850 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants, 40 species of grasses, and 36 different species of bamboo.[8] The SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and to propagating rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction. The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

The two facilities host about 2,700 animals of 390 different species.[9] About one-fifth of them are endangered or threatened. Most species are on exhibit at the Rock Creek Park campus.[10] The best-known residents are the giant pandas, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The SCBI facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time depending on research needs and recommendations from the zoo and the conservation community.[3] The zoo was one of the first to establish a scientific research program.[8] Because it is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo receives federal appropriations for operating expenses. A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2008 to upgrade the park's exhibits and layout.

The National Zoo is open every day of the year except for December 25 (Christmas Day), though it was closed for a long period during the COVID-19 pandemic.[11] The zoo reopened following this on May 21, 2021.


a bridge over a calm stream
Bridge at National Zoological Park, 1897

The zoo first started as the National Museum's Department of Living Animals in 1886.[12] By an act of Congress on March 2, 1889,[13][14][15] for "the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people", the National Zoo was created. In 1890, it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Three well-known individuals drew up plans for the zoo: Samuel Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian; William Temple Hornaday, noted conservationist and head of the Smithsonian's vertebrate division; and Frederick Law Olmsted, the premier landscape architect of his day. William T. Hornaday was the park's first director and curator of all 185 animals when the park was first opened and took office on May 6, 1889.[12][16] Together, they designed a new zoo to exhibit animals for the public and to serve as a refuge for wildlife, such as bison and beaver, which were rapidly vanishing from North America.[17]

a broad tree-lined promenade
Olmsted Walk, near the zoo's Elephant House
Elephant being fed
Elephant fed by a zoo attendant through the bars of a fence at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., circa 1915

For the first 50 years, the National Zoo, like most zoos around the world, focused on exhibiting one or two representative exotic animal species. The number of many species in the wild began to decline drastically because of human activities. In 1899, the Kansas frontiersman Charles "Buffalo" Jones captured a bighorn sheep for the zoo.[18] The fate of animals and plants became a pressing concern. Many of these species were favorite zoo animals, such as elephants and tigers; hence the staff began to concentrate on the long-term management and conservation of entire species.[17]

Several exotic animals were donated by former US presidents; often they were acquired as gifts from foreign dignitaries. Notable among them are Billy the pygmy hippopotamus who is the common ancestor to almost all pygmy hippos in American zoos[19] and Rebecca the raccoon, one of many exotic presidential pets of Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace.

In the mid-1950s, the zoo hired its first full-time permanent veterinarian, reflecting a priority placed on professional health care for the animals. In 1958, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) was founded. The citizen group's first accomplishment was to persuade Congress to fund the zoo's budget entirely through the Smithsonian; previously, the zoo's budget was divided between appropriations for the Smithsonian and the District of Columbia. Congressional funding placed the zoo on a firmer financial base, allowing for a period of growth and improvement. In 2006, Congress approved an additional $14.6 million for renovations in both facilities.[8] FONZ incorporated as a nonprofit organization and turned its attention to developing education and volunteer programs, supporting these efforts from its operation of concessions at the zoo, and expanding community support for the zoo through a growing membership[17] which annually raises between $4 million and $8 million for the zoo.[8]

In the early 1960s, the zoo turned its attention to breeding and studying threatened and endangered species. Although some zoo animals had been breeding and raising young, it was not understood why some species did so successfully while others did not. In 1965, the zoo created the zoological research division to study the reproduction, behavior, and ecology of zoo species, and to learn how best to meet the needs of the animals.[17]

The Ivy A. Pelzman Memorial Glockenspiel, constructed by the Petit & Fritsen bell foundry, is a 38-foot-tall clock tower standing at the zoo's southeastern entrance consisting of a carillon of 35 bells, four moving figurines of animals, and a 4-faced clock that was dedicated on May 16, 1976. It was designed and donated by the late Dr. Ivy A. Pelzman (1890-1970) as a memorial in honor of his wife Kathrine. The glockenspiel's steam-engine powered rotating display of animals malfunctioned a few years after the glockenspiel's installation due to the steam engine becoming Inoperable. A few years later, the glockenspiel was relocated on the zoo grounds from Connecticut Avenue entrance to the southeastern entrance. The glockenspiel's bells became inoperable in 2003 due to a mechanical malfunction with the carillon keyboard console. The Smithsonian lists the glockenspiel as an "attractive, but dysfunctional gift," and it requires expensive funds for restoration and maintenance.

In 1975, the zoo established the Conservation and Research Center (CRC). In 2010, the complex was renamed the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), a title also used as an umbrella term for the scientific endeavors that take place on both campuses. On 3,200 acres (13 km2) in the Virginia countryside, rare species, such as Mongolian wild horses, scimitar-horned oryx, maned wolves, cranes, and others live and breed in spacious surroundings. SCBI's modern efforts emphasize reproductive physiology, analysis of habitat and species relationships, genetics, husbandry and the training of conservation scientists.[17]

In September 2006, the zoo's last giraffe, Randale, was transferred to the Lowry Park Zoo and in September 2009, the zoo's last hippopotamus, Happy, was transferred to the Milwaukee County Zoo to make space for Elephant Trails.[20][21][22]

During the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020–21, the zoo was closed for several months as a precautionary effort.[11]

Modern status

Expanding knowledge about the needs of zoo animals and commitment to their well-being has changed the look of the National Zoo. Today, animals live in natural groupings rather than individually. Rare and endangered species, such as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, breed and raise their young – showing the success of the zoo's conservation and research programs.[17] The zoo's research team studies animals both in the wild and at the zoo. Its research encompasses reproductive biology, conservation biology, biodiversity monitoring, veterinary medicine, nutrition, behavior, ecology, and bird migration.[8]

The National Zoo has developed public-education programs to help students, teachers and families explore the intricacies of the animal world. The zoo also designed specialized programs to train wildlife professionals from around the world and to form a network to provide crucial support for international conservation. The National Zoo is at the forefront of the use of web technology and programming to expand its programs to an international virtual audience.[17]

The National Zoo has been the home to giant pandas since Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived at the zoo in 1972. Since 2000, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian also lived there. On July 9, 2005, Mei Xiang gave birth to Tai Shan, who went to China in February 2010. On August 23, 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao, who went to China in February 2017; upon her arrival she began participating in the species breeding program. On August 22, 2015, Mei Xiang gave birth to Bei Bei, who said farewell to The National Zoo in November 2019.[23] Due to an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all giant panda born in the zoo, must relocate to China upon turning four years old.[17] Plans for the future include modernizing the zoo's aging facilities and expanding its education, research and conservation efforts in Washington, Virginia and in the wild. As part of a 10-year renewal program, Asia Trail – a series of habitats for seven Asian species including sloth bears, red pandas, and clouded leopards – was created. Elephant Trails, opened in 2013, provides a new home for the zoo's Asian elephants. Kids' Farm exhibit, opened in 2004, was slated for closure in 2011 but is to remain open for another 10 years following a donation to the exhibit.[17][24]

The zoo, which is supported by tax revenues and open to everyone, attracts 2 million visitors per year, according to The Washington Post in 2005.[25]

The National Zoo has a Federal Law Enforcement Agency deployed on its grounds: the National Zoological Park Police (NZPP), which consists of full-time Law Enforcement Officers. The NZPP is an agency that has been recognized by the United States Congress and is one of five original police agencies within the District of Columbia with full police powers. They work very closely with the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, Department of State, Capital Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Defense. The agency is considered the first line of defense in the event of any crisis.[26]

Dennis W. Kelly was named director of the zoo on February 15, 2010, overseeing both campuses. Kelly succeeded John Berry, who was the National Zoo director for three years until February 2009, when he resigned to become the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under the Obama Administration. Steven Monfort, the zoo's associate director for conservation and science, served as the acting director between February 2009 and February 2010. Kelly retired as the zoo's director in November 2017, and Steven Monfort was named acting director.[27] In November, 2021, Brandie Smith was appointed director. Smith is the second woman to serve as director in the zoo's 132-year history.[28]

National Zoological Park Police

US National Zoological Park Police officers are specifically assigned to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The National Zoological Park Police is one of the oldest police forces in the District of Columbia. According to the official National Zoo Website, the Zoological Police was one of the original five police agencies in D.C. created in 1889. The 163-acre (0.66 km2) National Zoo is a Smithsonian facility in the District of Columbia and is staffed 24 hours a day by full-time US National Zoological Park police officers. The National Zoo also maintains a 3200-acre Research facility (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia; which is staffed by members of the National Zoological Park Police. NZPP officers are Federal law enforcement officers and carry full law enforcement jurisdiction within the District of Columbia and Virginia that work closely with the Metropolitan Police Department and the US Park Police, as well as other federal law enforcement agencies to include Virginia law enforcement authorities.[29]


David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat

Panda in recline holding a blue milk crate
Tian Tian at the National Zoo

The zoo's Giant Panda Habitat features three outdoor areas with animal enrichment, as well as an indoor area with a rocky outcrop, a waterfall, and viewing areas. The zoo's pandas, named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association, and will live at the zoo until 2023.[30] They are the focus of a research, conservation, and breeding program that aims to preserve the species. The pandas live at the David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat, a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor exhibit. The exhibit is designed to replicate the rocky, lush terrain of the pandas' natural habitat.[8]

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have successfully had four surviving cubs together, all by artificial insemination. The first was a male cub, named Tai Shan in 2005. Tai Shan currently lives at the Bifengxia Panda Base in Sichuan, China, taking part in Bifengxia's breeding program. On September 16, 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to another cub, but the cub died six days after its birth. On August 23, 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to two cubs; one, a female named Bao Bao, survived, while the other was stillborn.[31] Mei delivered two cubs in August 2015; one died a few days later.[32] The surviving male was given the name Bei Bei on September 25, 2015, and was on public exhibit in January 2016. Bei Bei traveled to China in November 2019. On August 21, 2020, at 6:35, Mei Xiang gave birth to a single male cub, and became the oldest giant panda to give birth in the US at 22 years old. On November 23, he was named Xiao Qi Ji by popular vote which translates to "Little Miracle" in English.

Asia Trail

A group of Asia-themed exhibits opened in October 2006. Along with the giant pandas, the area also displays sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, clouded leopards, Asian small-clawed otters, and Asian elephants. Next to the pandas is an exhibit home to several Northern snakeheads which formerly held a Japanese giant salamander (now located in the Reptile Discovery Center).[33]

Elephant Trails

elephant in an enclosure
Asian elephant at the National Zoo

In spring 2008, the National Zoo began construction on Elephant Trails, a new home for its Asian elephants. The first part of the $52 million project opened in September 2010, expanding the zoo's former elephant area with a 5,700-square-foot (530 m2) barn, two new yards (one with a pool), and a quarter-mile (400 m) walkway through woods,[34] a total of 1.9 acres (0.77 ha) of outdoor space, bringing the total size of Elephant Trails to 2 acres (0.81 ha).[35] Elephant Trails: A Campaign to Save Asian Elephants is a comprehensive breeding, education, and scientific research program. It is designed to help scientists care for elephants in zoos and save them in the wild. The Elephant House (built in 1937) was closed to the public from September 14, 2009, until late March 2013 for construction of the second phase of Elephant Trails. This includes the Elephant Community Center, an indoor exhibit with many interpretive signs and graphics.[36] The seven Asian elephants that live in Elephant Trails are one bull named Spike and six cows named Bozie, Kamala, Swarna, Maharani, Trong Nhi, and Nhi Linh.

Lemur Island

Lemurs at the National Zoo

Lemur Island is a moated island that is home to a group of ring-tailed lemurs and black-and-white ruffed lemurs. The island formerly held Barbary macaques.

a Triceratops statue on outdoor display
Uncle Beazley near Lemur Island

Uncle Beazley, a fiberglass Triceratops that Louis Paul Jonas created for the DinoLand pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair, can now be seen near the island. The life-size statue, which had been located on the National Mall near the National Museum of Natural History until 1994, is named for a dinosaur in the 1956 children's book, The Enormous Egg, by Oliver Butterworth and in the book's 1968 television movie adaptation, in which the statue appeared.[37]

The Small Mammal House

a small animal centered between rocks
Dwarf mongoose at the National Zoo

The majority of the zoo's smaller mammal species live in the Small Mammal House. The species on display include golden lion tamarins, golden-headed lion tamarins, emperor tamarins, pale-headed saki monkeys, Goeldi's marmosets, red ruffed lemurs, black-footed ferrets, dwarf mongooses, long-tailed chinchilla, prehensile-tailed porcupines, brush-tailed bettongs, Northern treeshrews, La Plata three-banded armadillos, screaming hairy armadillos, sand cats, fennec foxes, naked mole-rats, southern tamanduas, rock hyraxes and several others.[38]

A sister pair of white-nosed coatis are found behind the building

Despite not being mammals, a pair of Von der Decken's hornbills and a green aracari can be found in the building.

American Trail

The American Trail exhibit houses a variety of species found in North America. These include California sea lions, grey seals, brown pelicans, North American beavers, North American river otters, red wolves, bald eagles, common ravens and eastern screech-owls.[39] After facing severe threats, the majority of American Trail species have rebounded thanks to conservation efforts. Many of the residents of American Trail have been listed as endangered. All of plants in the animal enclosures on American Trail exhibit are native to North America.

The exhibit also features a cafe called Seal Rock Cafe, which offers dishes crafted from local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Menu items include Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certified shrimp and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish.[40]

The Great Ape House

a gorilla on hands and feet, facing left
Gorilla at the National Zoo

The Great Ape House opened in 1981 and is separated into two sets of enclosures. One houses six western lowland gorillas (two males named Baraka Ya Mwelu and Moke; three females named Calaya, Mandara and Kibibi; and a female infant named Zahra, born in 2023). The other houses seven orangutans (three males named Kyle, Kiko and Redd; and four females named Batang, Lucy, Iris and Bonnie). The orangutans are allowed access to the Think Tank (see below) by traveling along the "O-Line", a series of high cables supported by metal towers that enable the orangutans to move between the two buildings. Kyle, Batang and Redd are Bornean orangutans while Kiko, Lucy, Iris and Bonnie are all hybrid orangutans.

Think Tank

orangutans crossing lines between towers, high above a promenade
Two orangutans crossing over visitors via the "O Line"

Think Tank is an area designed to educate visitors about how animals think and learn about their surroundings. Think Tank was opened in 1995 and features several interactive displays that teach visitors how zoologists conduct their studies. The zoo's orangutans (which are sometimes used in keeper demonstrations) are allowed to move from the Great Ape House to Think Tank, and the building includes suitable enclosures for the apes should they choose to stay there. Other animals kept and studied in Think Tank include land hermit crabs, brown rats and Allen's swamp monkeys. The zoo once had a population of Celebes crested macaques living in Think Tank.

Gibbon Ridge

Gibbon Ridge is an enclosure housing four siamangs (two males named Bradley and Guntur and two females named Ronnie and Adinda).

Great Cats on Lion and Tiger Hill

Great Cats opened in May 1976 and is separated into three enclosures with a moat. The zoo rotates four lions (two males named Shaka and Jumbe as well as two lionesses named Shera and Amahle) and three tigers (a Sumatran tigress named Damai and two Siberian tigers, a male named Metis and a female named Nikita) between the three exhibits.

Africa Trail

cheetah atop a platform, facing camera
Cheetah at the National Zoo
antelope facing camera (low contrast with background)
Lesser kudu at the National Zoo

Formerly called the Cheetah Conservation Station, this outdoor exhibit is designed to mimic the African savanna, to educate visitors about cheetahs, and what is being done to preserve them in the wild. Other animals on display in the area include a Hartmann's mountain zebra, Rüppell’s griffon vultures, addaxes, ostriches, Abyssinian ground hornbills and lesser kudu. Animals formerly on display include Grévy's zebra, maned wolves, scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and red river hogs.[41]


Opened in 1992, this South America-themed walk-through exhibit contains animal and plant species native to the Amazon basin. Animals on display include multiple species of freshwater stingrays, silver arowanas, Yellow-spotted Amazon river turtles, Red-footed tortoises, arapaimas, black pacus, a Southern two-toed sloth, roseate spoonbill, sunbitterns, hawk-headed parrots, guinea pigs and many more.

The Amazonia Science Gallery is located on the lower level. Here visitors can learn about the zoo's efforts to protect species around the globe. Some of the species on display include Panamanian golden frogs, African clawed frogs, aquatic caecilians, barred tiger salamanders and many species of poison frogs. Located within the science gallery is the Coral Lab. Many corals are on display along with clownfish, anemones and other species.[42]

The Electric Fishes Demonstration Lab features a five-foot-long electric eel. Bluntnose knifefish, elephantnose knifefish and black ghost knifefish are also featured.

The Reptile Discovery Center

large lizard facing left (in shadow)
Komodo dragon at the National Zoo

The zoo's reptile and amphibian house opened in 1931 and exhibits seventy species of reptiles and amphibians. These include Aldabra tortoises, radiated tortoises, spider tortoises, Cuban crocodiles, a gharial, Eastern indigo snakes, gila monsters, blue iguanas, a green anaconda, green tree pythons, Timor pythons, king cobras, northern copperheads, hellbenders, eastern red-backed salamanders, long-tailed salamanders, alligator snapping turtles and many more.

Behind the building are exhibits for a Komodo dragon, a crocodile monitor, Chinese alligators and a Philippine crocodile. In the front of the building is an exhibit for an American alligator named Wally.[43]

The Bird House

American flamingos at the National Zoo's Bird House

Opened in 1928, the zoo's Bird House focuses on the biological phenomenon of migration in the eastern hemisphere and features three distinct aviaries, each focusing on a different habitat that is crucial to the bird's annual migrations. The habitats are Delaware Bay, a marsh environment that displays shorebirds, horseshoe crabs and mud minnows, Prairie Pothole, a wetlands environment that displays waterfowl, and Costa Rican Coffee Farm, a two-story tropical environment that displays songbirds.[44] Exhibits surrounding the exterior of the Bird House display kori bustards, cranes, greater rheas, barred owls, bronze turkeys, cassowaries, king vultures, green-winged macaws, American flamingos and others.

Claws & Paws Pathway

The Claws & Paws Pathway exhibit is the most recent exhibit added in the zoo. It a small circular path that includes exhibits for binturongs, bobcats, Pallas's cats and a North American porcupine.[45]

The Kids' Farm

The Kids' Farm opened in 2004 and is aimed primarily at children and housing domesticated livestock. Animals kept in the Kids' Farm include alpacas, hens, miniature Mediterranean donkeys, Hereford and Holstein cows, Ossabaw Island hogs and Nigerian Dwarf goats. The exhibit also has a small pond with koi and Channel catfish. In 2011, the zoo announced plans to close The Kids' Farm due to budgetary constraints. However, a $1.4 million donation from State Farm Insurance allowed the exhibit to remain open.[46]

American Bison Exhibit

large bison facing right with head lowered
Bison at the National Zoo

The zoo opened a new American bison exhibit on August 30, 2014, as part of their 125th-anniversary celebration. The exhibit features two female bison, named Lucy and Gally, that were transported to the zoo in 2020 from the American Prairie in northeastern Montana.[47]

Other animals

Other animals in the zoo's collection include spectacled bears (near the Amazonia exhibit), black-tailed prairie dogs (near the Great Cats exhibit), Przewalski's horses (near the Small Mammal House), Patagonian maras (near American Trail), and Bennett's wallabies (also near the Small Mammal House).[48]

Notable animals

Smokey Bear

Main article: Smokey Bear

bear reclined in pool
Smokey Bear playing in his pool, sometime in the 1950s

One of the most famous animals to have spent much of his life at the zoo was Smokey Bear, the "living symbol" of the cartoon icon created as part of a campaign to prevent forest fires. A black bear cub rescued from a fire, he lived at the zoo from 1950 until his death in 1976. During his time at the zoo, he had millions of visitors and an abundance of personal mail addressed to him – up to 13,000 letters a week – such that the U.S. Post Office designated a special zip code for correspondence addressed to him.[49]

During his time at the zoo, he was "married" to Goldie Bear, with the hope that one of his offspring would continue to hold the title of Smokey Bear. When the pair produced no offspring, an orphaned bear cub was added to their cage. It was named "Little Smokey", with the announcement that the bear couple had "adopted" the new cub. In 1975, an official ceremony was held to recognize the retirement of Smokey Bear and the new title of "Smokey Bear II" for Little Smokey.[49] Upon the death of the original Smokey Bear, The Washington Post printed an obituary, recognizing him as a "New Mexico native" who had resided in Washington, D.C., for many years, working for the government.[50]

Giant pandas

a panda feeding on shoots
Tai Shan at the National Zoo

Coming off the heels of President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China, the Chinese government donated two giant pandas, Ling-Ling (female) and Hsing-Hsing (male), to the official United States delegation. First Lady Pat Nixon donated the pandas to the zoo, where she welcomed them in an April 1972 ceremony. The first giant pandas in America, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were among the most popular animals at the zoo.[51] Ling-Ling died in 1992 and Hsing-Hsing in 1999. Although Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing had five cubs between 1983 and 1989, all died as infants.[52]

A new pair of pandas, female Mei Xiang ("Beautiful Fragrance") and male Tian Tian ("More and More"), arrived on loan from the Chinese government in late 2000.[53] The zoo paid an estimated 10 million dollars for the 10-year loan. On July 9, 2005, a male panda cub was born at the zoo. It was the first surviving panda birth at the zoo and the product of artificial insemination by the zoo's reproductive research team. The cub was named Tai Shan ("Peaceful Mountain") on October 17, 100 days after his birth; the panda went without a name for its first hundred days, in observance of a Chinese custom. Tai Shan is property of the Chinese government and was scheduled to be sent to China after his second birthday, although that deadline was extended in 2007 by two years. Tai Shan left Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2010, and was taken to the Ya'an Bifengxia Panda Base, part of the Wolong nature reserve's panda conservation center.

On September 16, 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to another cub, believed by zoo officials to have been a female, which died after about a week. Initial results from a necropsy (animal autopsy) revealed the abnormal presence of fluid in the abdomen and also discoloration of the liver (hepatic) tissue of unknown etiology; the cub had managed to nurse before death because milk was found in its system. Zoo officials said that, while upsetting, they (and, by extension, the public) can hope to learn more about giant panda breeding, reproduction, and health as a result, and will work closely and cooperatively with their Chinese colleagues during the inquiry.[54]

In January 2011, Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, and Zang Chunlin, secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, extending the zoo's giant panda program for five more years, further cementing the two countries' commitment to the conservation of the species. The agreement, effective through December 5, 2015, stipulates that the zoo will conduct research in the areas of breeding and cub behavior. A new agreement was put in place December 7, 2015, and is in effect until December 7, 2020.[55]

Mei Xiang gave birth in August 2015 to two live cubs; the smaller one died a few days later (keepers had to care for it after Mei decided to focus on the larger cub). Sperm from both Tian Tian and another male giant panda based in a China preserve was used. It was determined on August 28, 2015,[56] that both cubs were male and sired by Tian Tian. The larger, surviving cub was named Bei Bei[57] ("precious treasure") on September 25, 2015. In celebration of a state visit, the name was selected by First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and First Lady of the People's Republic of China, Peng Liyuan.

Bao Bao was healthy at that time, eating bamboo and special fruitsicle treats, having been separated from Mei at 18 months of age. She celebrated her second birthday in August 2015, shortly after the cubs were born. Her contract extended to August 2017. Bao Bao left the National Zoo on February 22, 2017, for the Dujiangyan base of the China Panda Conservation and Research Center.[58]

In March 2020 shortly after the National Zoo closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated using only frozen sperm to avoid too much close contact.[59] In August 2020, the National Zoo announced that Mei Xiang was pregnant. A few days after announcing that they had detected fetal tissue, the zoo tweeted a short video of an ultrasound showing a panda fetus. On August 21, Mei Xiang gave birth to a live male cub named Xiao Qi Ji, making her the oldest panda in the United States to give birth, at 22 years old.[60][61][62] This meant the first success for this type of procedure.[59]

Special programs and events

In partnership with Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit organization, the zoo holds annual fund raisers (ZooFari, Guppy Gala, and Boo at the Zoo) and free events (Sunset Serenades, Fiesta Musical). Proceeds support animal care, conservation science, education and sustainability at the National Zoo.[63][64]

a walkway at night with trees colorfully lit
Zoolights event at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

Friends of the National Zoo

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), a non-profit, working in partnership with the National Zoological Park providing support to wildlife conservation programs at the zoo and around the world since 1958. Starting with Park Operations (guest services, retail and more), Education/Volunteer Services, as well as Membership Services. Every area of FONZ works to raise money for the zoo, with $5 Zoo Guidebooks, rentals, souvenir purchases and memberships, with each being a tax write off. FONZ memberships offer free parking, discounts at the zoo's stores and restaurants, ride tickets, and a subscription to the Wild.Life., a magazine with the latest zoo news, research and photos.[65][66]

FONZ has 60,000 members including about 30,000 families, largely in the Washington metropolitan area, and more than 1,000 volunteers. FONZ also offers weekend birthdays to members and seasonal day-camps through Education/Volunteer services, and a residential nature camp is offered at SCBI in Front Royal.[65]

On February 4, 2021, the National Zoo announced that it was ending its 63-year partnership with FONZ.[67]

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Main article: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The Smithsonian established its Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in 2010 to serve as an umbrella for its global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia, the facility was previously known as the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center.[68]

The SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, at the National Zoo in Washington and at field research and training sites around the world. Its efforts support one of the four main goals of the Smithsonian's new strategic plan, which advances "understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet."[68]

Conservation biology is a field of science based on the premise that the conservation of biological diversity is important and benefits current and future human societies.[68]

The Institute consists of six centers:[68]


See also


  1. ^ "Proposed Location for a Zoological Park Along Rock Creek". Ghosts of D.C. April 12, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "About Us". National Zoological Park. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute". National Zoological Park. Archived from the original on June 11, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
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    The full-size Triceratops replica and eight other types of dinosaurs were designed by two prominent paleontologists, Dr. Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, and Dr. John Ostrom of the Peabody Museum, in Peabody, Massachusetts. The sculptor, Louis Paul Jonas, executed these prehistoric animals in fiberglass, after the designs of Barnum and Ostrom, for the Sinclair Refining Company's Pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1964. After the Fair closed, the nine dinosaurs, which weighed between 2 and 4 tons each, were placed on trucks and taken on a tour of the eastern United States. The Sinclair Refining Company promoted the tour for public relations and advertising purposes, since their trademark was the dinosaur. In 1967, the nine dinosaurs were given to various American museums.
    This particular replica was used for the filming of The Enormous Egg, a movie made by the National Broadcasting Company for television, based on a children's book of the same name by Oliver Butterworth. The movie features an enormous egg, out of which hatches a baby Tricerotops ; the boy consults with the Smithsonian Institution which accepts Uncle Beasley for the National Zoo.
    ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
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