News & Politics

DC Could Soon Be Panda-Less. Which Zoo Animal Should Be Our New Obsession?

A key piece of Washington’s municipal identity will likely be gone by the end of this year: All of the giant pandas in Smithsonian’s National Zoo are scheduled to get on a plane to China by December 7, DCist reports. While zoo officials have expressed some optimism that the program that has kept the quirky bears in town since 1972 could get extended or renewed (in which case we could get new pandas sent over), that is far from a certainty.

So what do we do if the pandas leave? Here are a few animals that might fill the Xiao Qi Ji-sized hole in DC’s heart, and where you can see them at the zoo:


Emperor tamarin (Small Mammal House)

Emperor tamarin
Photograph by Khanh Le via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? It’s a monkey with a mustache. Do you honestly need more information?


Przewalski’s horse (Small Mammal House)

Photograph by Wirestock via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? This small equine breed has a totally sick mane. Also, the guy they’re named for looked so much like Joseph Stalin that a persistent myth developed that he had fathered the dictator. What a great story for a Georgetown dinner party!


Ostriches (Africa Trail)

Photograph by Elizabeth Hoffmann via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? They just seem kind of underrated and misunderstood—a good symbol for this area.


Andean bears (Amazonia)

Photograph by camacho9999 via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? Maybe we should try out a bear with less IP? These real-life Paddingtons are also known as spectacled bears due to their sort of eyeglass-like facial fur. Wears glasses, comes from somewhere else? Sounds pretty Washington to me!


Red pandas (Asia Trail)

Mondays, amirite? Photograph by Freder via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? They’re the bad boys of the zoo. I just kind of worry that their moment has passed.


Sloth bears (Asia Trail)

Photograph by chonchit via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Why? These bears are undeniably cool. But they keep a “crepuscular” schedule so they’re not going to be visible for much of the day. 


Orangutans (Primates)

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Why? See above.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.