They arrived from China in 1972. The pandas were a gift to the American people as a gesture of goodwill to commemorate President Nixon's historic visit to China.
Both Ling Ling (photo with bowl) and Hsing Hsing (photo with carrot) were born in China in the wild. Ling Ling (a darling girl) was born in 1969 or 1970. Her name was a nickname for Chinese girls, referring to the sound of the bells they sometimes wear on their wrist. Hsing Hsing (shining star) was born in 1971. His name refers to the twinkling of a star.
They mated for the first time in 1983. Ling Ling was also artificially inseminated with sperm from Chia Chia a giant panda in London. This cub died three hours later of pneumonia. Using DNA analysis, national zoo scientist determined the cub was Hsing Hsing's. The pair went on to produce four more cubs between 1984 -1989. One was stillborn; and twins were born in 1987, one died quickly from a lack of oxygen and the other succumbed to an infection four days later. The last cub, born in 1989, died of pneumonia 23 hours after birth. Ling Ling also experienced many psuedopregnancies between 1983 and 1991.
Ling Ling died suddenly on December 30, 1992 of heart failure, she was 23. Hsing Hsing suffering from several debilitating, age-related diseases, including terminal kidney disease, was euthanized on November 28, 1999, he was 28.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the National Zoo's second pair of giant pandas.
They arrived in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 2000, aboard a specially chartered Federal Express jet. After a quarantine period of more than 30 days, the pair went on public exhibit on January 10, 2001.
Mei Xiang was born at the China Research and Conservation Center for the giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province, China. She was born on July 22, 1998. Her mother was Xue Xue (wild born) and was artificially inseminated with Mei's fathers semen, Lin Nan (captive born).
Tian Tian was born at the China Research and conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province, China also. He was born on August 27, 1997. His mother was Yong Ba (wild born) and his father was Pan Pan (wild born).
Unlike Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, these pandas were obtained through painstaking negotiations with the Chinese government. The National Zoo will contribute $1 million a year for 10 years to the China Wildlife Conservation Association in Beijing for the right to exhibit the two pandas. There would be an additional fee if a cub is born and that cub would be the property of China. In addition, the zoo is committing $3 million and more than two dozen staff for research projects and training workshops for Chinese keepers and scientists. The zoo will also conduct extensive research on Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, studying factors that influence successful mating, analyzing the nutritional value of foods they are fed and their adaptability to the environment. The results of previous research recorded can be found on this link: Smithsonian National Zoo Giant Panda Research findings
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian had their first offspring on July 9, 2005.
Tai Shan (Peaceful Mountain) a male, was born at the Smithsonian National Zoo on July 9, 2005. His mother is Mei Xiang (captive born; Wolong Research Center) was artificially inseminated with Tian Tian, the father's sperm in March of 2005. Natural mating was unsuccessful. Tian Tian (captive born; Wolong Research Center). Tai Shan's growth was actively recorded and documented. Weighing only about 3 oz., mostly pink with short sparse white hairs, he growth was watched day and night not only by zoo staff but by many excited panda enthusiast, such as myself. There is more documentation on the growth of a panda cub and Tai Shan's growth rate at the National Zoo website.
Click on the Chart below to see the full size.