A Very Special Birthday – Panda Bear Xiao Qi Ji Celebrates His First Birthday
August was an important month for the Smithsonian National Zoo as giant panda Xiao Qi Ji celebrated his first birthday. In honor of the momentous occasion, the zoo’s family of giant pandas partook in fruitsicle cake decorated with apples, carrots, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, bamboo, pears, and bananas.
Xiao Qi Ji was born on August 21st, 2020, to mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian. The panda birth was hailed as a triumph for this vulnerable species, and his name, translated into “Little Miracle” in Mandarin Chinese, reflected that feat.
In just three months, Xiao Qi Ji took his very first steps as he continued to grow into what would be a healthy giant panda. The public tuned in to live broadcasts of the young cub and, on May 21st, visitors flocked to see the national zoo pandas as he made his first public appearance.
A Closer Look at the Giant Panda Species
Giant panda bears are native to South Central China and primarily live in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu. These bears are known for their bold black-and-white coats and diet that consists almost exclusively of bamboo. The giant panda is born as the smallest baby of any placental mammal and weighs between 90 and 130 grams. It is born toothless, blind, and pink.
A giant panda birth is rare in both the wild and captivity. Due to its low birthrate, excessive poaching, and habitat loss, these bears are vulnerable species. In 1976, it was estimated that there were only about 1,000 panda bears in the wild.
Conservation efforts for these beautiful bears officially began in 1963 when the PRC government created the Wolong National Nature Reserve to save the declining panda population. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that several laws were passed to protect them, including removing humans from their reserves and gun control laws.
Today, it’s estimated that the economic upkeep costs of pandas are five times more than elephants, the next most expensive animal.
Are Pandas Endangered?
Giant pandas were first considered an endangered species in the 1990s. Since then, renewed conservation efforts have helped boost the number of this beloved species. In 2016, the panda bear achieved a small victory when the IUCN removed the bears from its endangered species list. With a wild population of up to 1,800 giant pandas, the Chinese government followed that declaration in 2021.
While still considered a vulnerable species, the panda bear is making a comeback after all of the conservation efforts to save them from extinction.
Enjoy Delicious Italian Food After Your Trip to the Zoo
The celebration of Xiao Qi Ji’s first birthday has brought even more visitors to the giant panda exhibit in the Smithsonian National Zoo. Members of the zoo gain exclusive access to the panda yard and indoor panda house viewing areas in the morning every day throughout the summer. The public can also view the Giant Panda Camsonline to watch this special family go about their day.
After your trip to see the giant pandas at the Smithsonian Zoo, you can stop by the LiLLies Restaurant and Bar for some exceptional Italian cuisine. Don’t forget to bring your zoo pass to get 10 percent off your meal.