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The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Peace out, pandas! The zoo’s popular panda cubs take a pause

Photo courtesy of iStock
Mei Xiang happily chews on a bamboo shoot at the National Zoo. She is one of the three pandas set to return to China later this year.

It is time to say farewell to the giant pandas at the National Zoo. For many WCHS students, part of growing up in the DMV was visiting these furry, playful animals with family or friends. Due to an ending contract between the Chinese government and the US, the pandas are set to return to China later this year, and for many WCHS students, it will be a difficult goodbye.

The pandas have always been a major attraction at the zoo, both in person and online through the Giant Panda Cam. Fans of the pandas have enjoyed watching them chew on bamboo, frolic in the snow during winter and enjoy 26-inch birthday cakes for many years.

“I remember taking the metro to the National Zoo and being so excited to see the pandas when I was younger,” WCHS sophomore Abigail Kim said. “They’re so cute and fun to watch, and they bring everyone joy.”

The two most known pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, have entertained thousands of visitors to the National Zoo for 20 years. Mei Xiang has given birth to four cubs and is known for her motherly instincts, while Tian Tian, the father, is famous for his mischievous personality.

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“Mei Xiang is my favorite panda because she’s always taken such good care of her little cubs ever since they were born,” WCHS sophomore Catherine Ward said. “She kind of reminds me a little of myself, taking care of my younger sister.”

But the giant pandas at the National Zoo have served a much larger purpose than entertaining their fans. The pandas have faced the threat of being an endangered species for decades because of natural habitat loss and low reproduction. The presence of the giant pandas at the zoo has provided significant insight into pandas’ eating habits, reproduction and much more. Also, people worldwide are now thinking about how to save their natural habitat in China too.

“I’m really sad to see the pandas go, but the zoo has definitely helped protect the pandas and raise awareness about them,” Kim said. “I didn’t know that the pandas have been close to being endangered, but I learned that from the zoo and the important information that they provide about the pandas.”

To help mark the pandas’ departure, the National Zoo celebrated their legacy with a week-long Panda Palooza that included scavenger hunts and films honoring the beloved bears. Students lucky enough to attend the event couldn’t help but think about their first visit with their favorite animals.

“When I went to the Panda Palooza, it was really fun, but it made me a little nostalgic about my first time at the zoo,” Ward said. “My first visit was on Halloween when I was in elementary school. I remember they gave one of the pandas a pumpkin, and he was rolling it around and eating it. It was so fun to watch!”

As the pandas’ departure date gets closer, it is essential to reflect on the fact that their time in Washington D.C. has been full of purpose. They leave a legacy of heightened awareness and increased support for conservation efforts worldwide for not just giant pandas but for other endangered species. Even with their departure, the National Zoo plans to continue its important work in panda conservation and hopes to welcome new pandas in the future. Although the giant pandas will be gone, visitors can enjoy the other animals along the Asia Trail Exhibit such as the red panda, clouded leopard and many more.

“I would miss the pandas very much, but I hope there will be new ones coming,” Kim said. “It’s something to look forward to, and we can continue to learn how to protect the pandas, other endangered animals, and the environment.”

While some may be sad to see the pandas leave, their time in Washington D.C. will continue to inspire people about the importance of the conservation of pandas and their habitat. Furthermore, the pandas’ influence is far-reaching, even becoming a symbol of global conservation efforts, including becoming the logo for the World Wildlife Fund. As we say goodbye to these magnificent animals, WCHS students reflect on what the pandas mean.

“The pandas were an important animal to me, and they remind me a lot of my childhood, visiting when I was a kid,” Ward said. “I can’t wait to see what happens to them and I hope the pandas continue to bring happiness to everyone wherever they are.”

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About the Contributor
Bella Donato
Bella Donato, Internal Communications Manager
Bella Donato is a sophomore and is an Internal Communications Manager. This is her second year of taking journalism and she is looking forward to meeting new people and continue writing. In her free time, she enjoys dance and is on the Churchill Poms team.

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