David Rubenstein visits Bei Bei at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
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Giant pandas are icons at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., and beloved around the world. What's more, they represent how international collaboration and conservation science can save species.
April 16, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of the arrival of giant pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing at the Zoo— the start of a decades-long giant panda program. The giant pandas have drawn millions of fans from around the world to the Zoo and millions more on the Panda Cam! They have given the Smithsonian an unparalleled opportunity to study giant panda behavior, health, reproduction, disease, nutrition and ecology.
Specifically, the program has allowed animal care staff and scientists to learn about panda breeding, pregnancy, and cub development as well as study giant panda native habitats in China. Over decades of joint efforts with Chinese partners, the Zoo’s breeding, veterinary, and ecological research has provided critical data for the management of giant pandas in human care and valuable insights for the conservation of wild populations.
David M. Rubenstein—co-founder of the Carlyle Group, philanthropist, and former member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents—has played an instrumental role in supporting the Zoo’s giant panda program since 2011. In appreciation, the giant panda complex was named the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat.
In addition, young conservation biologists in the U.S. and in China who were awarded Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute fellowships for their work to save this endangered species were named David M. Rubenstein Fellows. The gifts are used to fund conservation efforts in China, reproductive science research, professional training programs, giant panda care at the Zoo, upgrades to Zoo habitats, and public education.
In conversation with Brandie Smith, the John and Adrienne Mars director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Rubenstein discusses the history of giant panda care at the Smithsonian, what scientists have learned throughout the decades-long program, and what might be next for Xiao Qi Ji, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and the future of the giant panda program.
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