Giant pandas returning to DC’s National Zoo

Two new giant pandas are coming to D.C.’s National Zoo from China. The Smithsonian's National Zoo made the announcement Wednesday, a little more than six months after sending its three pandas back to China. 

The pair of pandas are Bao Li and Qing Bao and are expected to arrive by the end of 2024.

"We're thrilled to announce the next chapter of our breeding and conservation partnership begins by welcoming two new bears, including a descendent of our beloved panda family, to Washington, D.C.," said Brandie Smith, the institute's John and Adrienne Mars director. "This historic moment is proof positive our collaboration with Chinese colleagues has made an irrefutable impact. Through this partnership, we have grown the panda population, advanced our shared understanding of how to care for this beloved bear and learned what's needed to protect wild pandas and preserve native habitat."

READ MORE: Disappointment, tears at National Zoo after giant pandas leave for China


Pandas Bao Li (left) and Qing Bao (right) are expected at the Smithsonians National Zoo by the end of 2024. The zoo made the announcement about half a year after it sent its three pandas back to China.

Here is the official announcement from the Zoo:

Giant pandas are returning to Washington D.C.! As part of our 52-year-old conservation partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, we’re getting ready to welcome two new bears—Qing Bao and Bao Li—by the end of 2024. 

Our goal is to raise $25 million to secure a future for giant pandas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and protect this magnificent bear species and the mountain forest habitats it calls home. While federal resources cover the Zoo’s essential needs for all the animals we care for, the remainder of our operating budget — including the giant panda conservation program — comes from the support of Zoo visitors, members and donors. 

The National Zoo’s three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji left behind an empty panda exhibit last year.

On November 8, the three bears were loaded into their transport crates and were moved onto the FedEx Panda Express, a custom-decaled Boeing 777F aircraft, that departed on an approximately 19-hour flight to Chengdu from Dulles International Airport.

READ MORE: Giant pandas land safely in China marking end of an era in DC

Their exit came early amid speculation that Beijing was gradually pulling its pandas from Western nations due to deteriorating diplomatic relations with the U.S. and other countries. 

Demands for their return also grew among the Chinese public as unproven allegations that U.S. zoos mistreated the pandas flooded Chinese social media.

The zoo's exchange agreement with the Chinese government was originally brokered by President Richard Nixon 50 years ago.

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2-year-old male giant panda Bao Li in his habitat at Shenshuping Base in China on May 16, 2024.

READ MORE: Disappointment, tears at National Zoo after giant pandas leave for China

Last November, about a week after the National Zoo's pandas departed for China, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at a dinner in downtown San Francisco with American business executives and signaled that more pandas might be sent back to the U.S.

In February, China announced that it would send two pandas to the San Diego Zoo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report