News & Politics

National Zoo Gets Another $4.5 Million in Panda Sex Money

The zoo's newborn male giant panda cub, brought to you by David Rubenstein's money. Photograph courtesy National Zoo.

Carlyle Group co-founder and philanthropist David Rubenstein is so pleased the recent birth of a giant panda cub at the National Zoo, he’s putting up $4.5 million to keep the panda program going through 2020, the Smithsonian says in a press release. The gift brings Rubenstein’s total contribution toward giant panda conservation to $9 million, following a $4.5 million donation he made in 2011.

Rubenstein’s latest contribution will fund staff-training programs at the zoo, care and feeding of the four giant pandas, research on panda reproduction, and upgrades to the panda habitat that already bears his name. Some of Rubenstein’s contributions to the Smithsonian over the years have also gone toward panda conservation programs in China, which legally owns all giant pandas everywhere.

“The National Zoo’s panda program has been a remarkable success—two healthy pandas in just two years—and I am pleased to support it for another five years,” Rubenstein says in the press release. “Pandas bring joy to millions and serve as an important cultural bridge with China, as well as yielding important scientific discoveries that help to protect these amazing giant creatures.”

The zoo credits Rubenstein’s donations with paying for multiple projects between the zoo’s panda staffers and their Chinese counterparts, the development of new methods to analzye giant panda feces, growing bamboo plots based on panda behaviors in the field, and the artificial insemination procedures on female giant panda Mei Xiang that led to the births of Bao Bao in 2013 and a male cub last month.

Zoo officials say Rubenstein’s latest gift of panda sex money will keep the research going for years. “His generosity allows us to focus on one critically endangered species but in doing so, we leverage all we learn to better manage other species in human care and in the wild, explore options for reintroducing giant pandas to their native habitat, further international cooperation, train the next generation of scientists and upgrade and provide new platforms to teach our visitors about science conservation,” says Dennis Kelly, the zoo’s director.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.