News & Politics

The National Zoo Celebrates Its 50th Pandaversary

Get ready for six months of adorable cub pictures and limited-edition panda merch.

The pandas at Smithsonian’s National Zoo really deserve a party every day, and luckily, they’re getting a six-month-long celebration starting Wednesday—which, in case you didn’t know, is National Panda Day. This spring marks 50 years since the first two adorable bears’ arrival in DC, and the Smithsonian is honoring the anniversary with virtual and in-person events, limited edition merch, and the release of a new documentary, The Miracle Cub.

The festivities kick off today with the unveiling of a new addition to the outdoor giant panda exhibit. The “Giant Panda Family Tree Photo Gallery” will showcase the Zoo’s panda breeding program and how cubs born here go on to help the species’ survival in China.

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On the actual “Pandaversary,” Saturday, April 16, zoo guests can eat panda-shaped Bao buns, watch lion dance performances and calligraphy demonstrations, speak with the Zoo’s giant panda scientists, and see the pandas get special treats. The party continues into the next day with a musical performance by percussionist Tom Teasley and renowned Chinese dulcimer artist Chao Tian.

Since six months is a long time to celebrate (even for that one friend who does a “birthday month” every year), here are a few other special panda events to mark down your calendar:

  • April 8: The Zoo launches its “​​Pandaversary: 50 Years of Conservation and Cuteness” collection. You can buy merch featuring all eight pandas who have lived at the Zoo, and proceeds will go to Smithsonian and the National Zoo’s animal and conservation programs.
  • April 16 and 17: The Smithsonian Channel’s new documentary about the giant panda program will have its World Premiere this weekend. The screening at the Zoo’s theater in the Visitor Center will be free and open to the public.
  • April 21: A panel of Zoo experts will talk about what it takes to study, raise and care for giant pandas at the “Celebrating 50 Panda-mazing Years” program.

Kayla Benjamin
Assistant Editor