Tai Shan (“peaceful mountain”), was born July 9, 2005 to parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, given to the Smithsonian National Zoo to improve reproductive success and help preserve the endangered species. As part of the agreement, Tai Shan (pronounced “tie SHON”) is to be returned to China soon after his second birthday in July of this year. However, current negotiations with China may allow us to keep Tai Shan for a longer period of time. Tai Shan and his parents are enjoying the new Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat in the Asia Trail, which recently opened to the public. You can view live feeds of Tai Shan from the Panda Cam located on the National Zoo web site. Early morning and late evening are the best viewing times, since that is when he is hungry and ready to play. He sleeps most of the afternoon when it gets hot and his belly is full.
Tai Shan is very entertaining to watch. He loves his early afternoon snack – a giant popsicle made with bamboo and fruit. When Tai Shan was younger, we visited him at the Zoo and witnessed a frightening event – his first fall from a tree. The fall did not hurt him, but was clearly traumatic for Tai Shan. His mother, who then was housed with her baby, went running over to scoop him up in her arms and comfort him. Just like humans, after a few minutes of motherly love, he was off playing in the trees again.
The birth of giant pandas at national zoos are highly visible results of large scientific efforts to improve the reproductive success of pandas and preserve the endangered species. The Smithsonian National Zoo has the largest Department of Reproductive Sciences in the world. Scientists from the Zoo travel to China three times a year to work in China’s two largest breeding centers. There are fewer than 1600 giant pandas living in the wild. Researchers need to raise $400,000 per year to continue growing the population of giant pandas in zoos. The goal is to double the zoo population to 300 to succeed in saving the species. Tai Shan was the Zoo’s newest conservation success story and is considered our national treasure.
You can also view giant pandas on web cams at the San Diego Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and the Memphis Zoo. The San Diego Zoo has the largest population of giant pandas in the country. If you are interested in other Asian animal viewing, you can watch animal cams from the National Zoo of Asian elephants, tigers, sloth bears, and others available soon. What better way to entertain your kids during Spring break, Easter holiday, and summer vacation!