50th pandaversary: National Zoo celebrates with special ‘cakes’ for giant panda family

  • The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., gave special “cakes” to its resident giant pandas to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the zoo’s historic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government on Saturday.

  • Visitors watched as giant panda Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji shared a special “cake” made with frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane. The cub’s father, Tian Tian, had a similar cake for lunch.

  • Chinese ambassador Qin Gang called the bears “a symbol of the friendship” between the U.S. and China.

A giant panda and her cub enjoyed a special “cake” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic panda exchange agreement between the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Chinese government.

A delighted crowd watched as Mei Xiang and her 20-month-old cub Xiao Qi Ji shared a treat made with frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane on Saturday.

Tian Tian, the cub’s father who was in a nearby enclosure chomping on some bamboo during the festivities, had a similar “cake” for lunch.

Visitors of the zoo, located in Washington, D.C., were also treated to lion dance performances, calligraphy demonstrations and panda-shaped bao buns.

In his address to the crowd, Chinese ambassador Qin Gang called the bears “a symbol of the friendship” between the U.S. and China.

The agreement between the two nations, enacted in 1972 following former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s China visit, has shown how effective the international giant panda breeding program has been. 

The initiative to boost the world’s giant panda population involved similar agreements with different zoos from around the globe. The species’ population is now over 1,000, so pandas are no longer on the list of animals in danger of extinction.

Mei Xiang was already 22 years old when she conceived Xiao Qi Ji in August 2020, making her the oldest panda to give birth in the U.S. 

Since zoo personnel conducted the artificial insemination process amid strict restrictions, the cub’s birth had a slim chance of success. Xiao Qi Ji’s name means “little miracle” in English.

The cub’s miraculous birth increased the zoo’s “panda cam” livestream viewership by 1,200%.

The recent celebration at the Smithsonian National Zoo also gained online traffic, with users from all over the world witnessing the pandas consume their “cake” for a few minutes. 

Back in 1972, the zoo welcomed Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing as its original panda pair. While the two became main attractions, none of the cubs that they conceived in the zoo are still alive. 

In 2000, two new pandas named Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived. Together, they had three cubs: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. Following the zoo’s agreement with Beijing, the cubs moved to China at the age of 4. 


Featured Image via Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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