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Pandas' Year at Zoo a Time to Celebrate

January 11, 2002|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The National Zoo began a weeklong celebration Thursday of the first anniversary of the arrival of its two pandas from China, with zoo director Lucy Spelman saying it has been "a year of really productive study."

The zoo will host a day of family-oriented panda-related activities Saturday. Next Tuesday and Wednesday nights, scientists who are studying the panda will present their findings to the public. All events are free.

The sun burst out from behind a cloud for a few minutes during Thursday morning's news conference as the two animals were let out into their yard, where sugar cane treats awaited them. The crowd rushed to the fence to watch.

The pandas--female Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian--are at the zoo on a 10-year loan. In return, the zoo raised $1 million a year for panda preservation programs in China, where only about 1,000 of the endangered animals are believed to remain in the wild.

The animals--he is 257 pounds, she is 200 pounds--are healthy and have adjusted well to their new digs, zoo officials say. Spelman said the biggest surprise, to her, was "how active they are and how much they have used all the features in the yard."

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