Pandas returning to National Zoo following absence

By Michael Doyle | 05/29/2024 01:35 PM EDT

Bao Li and Qing Bao will arrive from China later this year.

Two-year-old giant panda Qing Bao in her habitat.

Two-year-old giant panda Qing Bao in her habitat at Dujiangyan Panda Base in Sichuan, China. Roshan Patel/Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Get ready to adore Bao Li and Qing Bao, now on track to become America’s latest giant panda sweethearts.

Six months after China reclaimed a pair of adult pandas and their 200-pound cub from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, U.S. officials Wednesday announced two replacement pandas will be arriving sometime later this year. The return of the lovable roly-poly creatures to the National Zoo marks a success in international wildlife negotiations that the Biden administration touted with some star-powered pizzazz.

“We can’t wait to celebrate this historic moment in our nation’s capital,” first lady Jill Biden said in a video announcement. “Join us, it’s official. The pandas are coming back to D.C.!”


The administration had some fun with the announcement, which was folded into a lightly comedic 144-second video sketch in which the first lady; Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch III; and Brandie Smith, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, appeared at first to be planning a reception for important but not-yet-identified White House guests.