UNITED STATES NEWS

Pandas enjoy frozen cake to celebrate 50 years at National Zoo

Apr 16, 2022, 8:00 PM
Giant pandas Mei Xiang, left and her cub Xiao Qi Ji eat a fruitsicle cake in celebration of the Smi...

Giant pandas Mei Xiang, left and her cub Xiao Qi Ji eat a fruitsicle cake in celebration of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 50 years of achievement in the care, conservation, breeding and study of giant pandas at The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, Saturday, April 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The “cake” was made from frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and it lasted about 15 minutes once giant panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji got hold of it.

The National Zoo’s most famous tenants had an enthusiastic breakfast Saturday in front of adoring crowds as the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government.

Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian largely sat out the morning festivities, munching bamboo in a neighboring enclosure with the sounds of his chomping clearly audible during a statement by Chinese ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as “a symbol of the friendship” between the nations.

Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild Tian Tian would probably never even meet his child. He received a similar cake for lunch.

In addition to hailing the 1972 agreement sparked by President Richard Nixon’s landmark visit to China, Saturday’s celebration also highlighted the success of the global giant panda breeding program, which has helped bring the bears back from the brink of extinction.

Xiao Qi Ji’s birth in August 2020 was hailed as a near miracle, due to Mei Xiang’s advanced age and the fact that zoo staff performed the artificial insemination procedure under tight restrictions shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic shut the entire zoo. At age 22, Mei Xiang was the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the United States.

Normally they would have used a combination of frozen sperm and fresh semen extracted from Tian Tian. But in order to minimize the number of close-quarters medical procedures, zoo officials used only frozen semen.

“It was definitely a long-shot pregnancy,” said Bryan Amaral, the zoo’s senior curator for mammals.

In honor of that long shot, the now 20-month-old cub was given a name that translates as “little miracle.” His birth in mid-pandemic sparked a fresh wave of panda-mania, with viewership on the zoo’s panda-cam livestream spiking by 1,200 percent.

“I know how passionate people are about pandas,” Amaral said. “I’m not surprised by that passion at all.”

Sure enough, crowds started streaming straight for the panda section at 8 a.m. when the zoo opened. Sisters Lorelai and Everley Greenwell, age 6 and 5, ran toward the enclosure chanting “Pandas! Pandas!”

They watched the cub tumble around, try to wrestle his mom and tear the zero off the giant 50 emblazoned on the ice cake.

“They knew this was coming,” said their mother Kayleigh Greenwell of Mount Ranier, Maryland, said of her girls. “We’ve been talking about it all week.”

The zoo’s original 1972 panda pair, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were star attractions at the zoo for decades, but panda pregnancies are notoriously tricky and none of their cubs survived.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived in 2000, and the pair has successfully birthed three other cubs: Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei — also by artificial insemination. All were transported to China at age 4, under terms of the zoo’s agreement with the Chinese government.

Similar agreements with zoos around the world have helped revitalize the giant panda population. Down to just over 1000 bears in the 1980s, the species has since been removed from the lists of animals in danger of extinction.

United States News

President Joe Biden speaks before signing into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act gu...
Associated Press

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school. “Lives will be saved,” he said at the White House. Citing […]
7 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows a sign at the Disney store on the Champs Elysees Avenu...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling thrusts companies into divisive arena

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics. Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The […]
7 hours ago
Associated Press

A roof over their head: Churches use tiny homes for homeless

Churches across the U.S. are tackling the big question of how to address homelessness in their communities with a small solution: tiny homes. On vacant plots near their parking lots and steepled sanctuaries, congregations are building everything from fixed and fully contained micro homes to petite, moveable cabins, and several other styles of small-footprint dwellings […]
7 hours ago
In this combo photo, protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 20...
Associated Press

Two months of waiting, and finally a Supreme Court ruling

Follow the links in this story to recent AP coverage about abortion over the last three months. ___ And so the interminable wait after the leak of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade has come to an end — nearly two months in which abortion and all of its complexities have been have been hashed […]
7 hours ago
With tear gas in the air, a large number of police surround the Arizona Capitol after protesters re...
Associated Press

Police at Arizona Capitol fire tear gas, disperse protesters

PHOENIX (AP) — Police fired tear gas to disperse anti-abortion demonstrators from outside the Arizona Capitol Friday night, forcing lawmakers to huddle briefly in a basement inside the building as they rushed to complete their 2022 session. Thousands of protesters had gathered earlier on the Capitol grounds in Phoenix, divided into groups both supporting and […]
7 hours ago
Jay Walker, third from left, co-founder of Gays Against Guns, speaks into a megaphone during a rall...
Associated Press

To some defenders, gun ruling could right a racial wrong

NEW YORK (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s tight restrictions on who can carry a handgun, condemnation erupted from liberal leaders and activists. But some public defenders, often allies of progressive activists, praised the court’s ruling, saying gun-permitting rules like New York’s have long been a license for racial discrimination. […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Pandas enjoy frozen cake to celebrate 50 years at National Zoo