WASHINGTON – The “cake” was made of frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and lasted about 15 minutes when giant panda mom Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji got their hands on it.
The National Zoo’s most famous tenants enjoyed an enthusiastic breakfast before enthusiastic crowds on Saturday as the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda exchange deal with the Chinese government.
Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian sat out most of the morning celebrations, chewing bamboo in a neighboring enclosure, with the sounds of his chewing being clearly heard during a statement from Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as a “symbol of friendship” between nations.
Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild, Tian Tian probably wouldn’t even meet his child. He got a similar cake for lunch.
In addition to celebrating the 1972 accord sparked by President Richard Nixon’s landmark visit to China, Saturday’s celebration also highlighted the success of the global giant panda breeding program, which has helped save the bears from extinction .
The birth of Xiao Qi Ji in August 2020 was considered to be near one due to Mei Xiang’s advanced age and the fact that zoo staff carried out the artificial insemination procedure under strict conditions shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire zoo miracles celebrated. At the age of 22, Mei Xiang became the oldest giant panda to give birth successfully in the United States.
Normally, they would have used a combination of frozen sperm and fresh sperm from Tian Tian. But to minimize the number of close-range medical procedures, zoo officials used only frozen semen.
“It was definitely a long pregnancy,” said Bryan Amaral, the zoo’s senior curator of mammals.
In honor of this long-range shot, the now 20-month-old cub was given a name that can be translated as “little miracle”. His birth in the middle of the pandemic sparked a new wave of panda mania, with viewership of the zoo’s panda cam live stream soaring by 1,200 percent.
“I know how passionate people are about pandas,” Amaral said. “I’m not at all surprised by this passion.”
In fact, at 8am when the zoo opened, the crowds poured straight into the panda section. Sisters Lorelai and Everley Greenwell, ages 6 and 5, ran to the enclosure and sang “Pandas! pandas!”
They watched as the cub stumbled around, trying to wrestle with its mother and snatching the zero off the giant 50 emblazoned on the ice cream cake.
“They knew this was coming,” her mother, Kayleigh Greenwell, of Mount Ranier, Maryland, said of her girls. “We’ve been talking about it all week.”
The zoo’s original 1972 panda pair, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were the zoo’s main attractions for decades, but panda pregnancies are notoriously difficult and none of their cubs survived.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in 2000 and the couple have successfully given birth to three more cubs: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei – also through artificial insemination. All were transported to China at the age of 4 according to the zoo’s agreement with the Chinese government.
Similar agreements with zoos around the world have helped revitalize giant panda populations. The species has since been removed from endangered species lists, save for just over 1,000 bears in the 1980s.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/04/16/pandas-devour-ice-cake-to-celebrate-50-years-at-national-zoo/ Pandas devour ice cream cakes to celebrate 50th anniversary at National Zoo