Pandas devour cake on anniversary of breeding program
The most famous tenants of the National Zoo in Washington, two pandas, had a lively breakfast in front of a delighted crowd on Saturday, when they devoured an ice cream cake in celebration of 50 years of a zoo agreement with the Chinese government for the exchange of these animals.
The “cake” was made with frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cane sugar. It lasted only 15 minutes once the giant panda Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji began to devour it.
Xiao Qi Ji’s father, TIan TIan, basically stayed away from the morning celebrations, eating bamboo in a neighboring compound while Chinese ambassador Qin Gang made a statement. The ambassador praised the pandas as a “symbol of friendship” between the two countries.
Pandas are almost solitary by nature and, in the wild, Tian TIan would probably never have met his son. The father received a similar cake for lunch.
In addition to celebrating the 1972 agreement stemming from President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, Saturday’s celebration highlighted the success of the global panda breeding program, which has helped bring the animals back from the brink of extinction.
Xiao Qi Ji’s birth in August 2020 was considered a near-miracle, due to Mei Xiang’s advanced age and the fact that zoo staff performed artificial insemination under very restricted conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the park to close.
At the age of 22, Mei Xiang was the oldest panda to give birth in the United States.
Normally, a mixture of frozen sperm and fresh sperm taken from Tian Tian would have been used, but to minimize the number of medical procedures in a small space, zoo officials used only frozen semen.