Good News! The Giant Pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Went Home to China
After campaigning with Panda Voices to free the Memphis Zoo’s giant pandas YaYa and LeLe and return them to China, we received many emails from panda fans who were also concerned about the Smithsonian National Zoo’s three pandas. Now, we’re happy to report that in November they were sent back to their homeland where they are thriving.
MeiXiang, 25, and TianTian, 26, arrived in the United States in 2000. Mei Xiang gave birth to seven cubs while at the zoo; three died and three were returned to China as part of an agreement that they must be returned by age 4. Their cub XiaoQiJi, who was born in 2020, remained with his parents at the zoo.
After the heartbreaking situation of giant pandas YaYa and LeLe at the Memphis Zoo went viral, culminating in the tragic and totally preventable death of LeLe in February 2023, and due to our intense campaign with our partner group Panda Voices to save them, we received many emails from panda fans with certain concerns about the pandas at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. We thus tried to contact the zoo asking it to share with us more details about the panda family, especially those related to the concerns brought by the panda fans, so we could better understand their health, level of care, and well-being.
After a member of Panda Voices visited the zoo on May 29 to investigate and observe the pandas, we collaborated and summarized our observations and the concerns we had received. We then proceeded to send a letter to the zoo on August 15 suggesting an online meeting to discuss our concerns and make suggestions that the zoo could take to address them. Unfortunately, even after sending a follow-up message two weeks later, we did not receive any reply to our request.
While it was disheartening to not receive a response, the good news is that the pandas were already scheduled to return to China in December, at the end of the contract between China and the zoo, and they ended up being transported there a month earlier than originally planned.
On November 9, 2023, MeiXiang, TianTian, and XiaoQiJi safely landed in the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport after a long trans-Pacific journey departing from Washington D.C.
The three of them are now living at the Shenshuping Base of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) in Wolong Nature Reserve, a very fitting place for pandas in the region of their natural habitat. There, they have the opportunity to live in their native land surrounded by mountains and bamboo forests and receive care from the top panda specialists in the world.
MeiXiang and TianTian are now able to spend their golden years peacefully at their home and XiaoQiJi will grow up in his natural habitat. We’ve received news that all three pandas have settled in very well and are thriving at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. We wish the panda family a wonderful life in their homeland!
With these three pandas returning to China, only four giant pandas are currently left in the U.S. at the Atlanta Zoo. While there has been recently what seems like a concerted effort by the Chinese government to take pandas back from the United States where they are on loan, unfortunately, that trend may be short lived.
We will be keeping apprised of the situation. Thank you for caring and acting on behalf of pandas worldwide.