National Zoo celebrates 40 years of giant pandas

WASHINGTON – Forty years ago today, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s first giant pandas arrived in the U.S.

Hsing-Hsing, the male, and Ling-Ling, the female, were gifts from China after President Nixon visited the country, according to zoo officials.

The two pandas arrived at Andrews Air Force Base at 5 a.m., April 16, 1972. They were officially presented to the zoo four days later.

The first giant panda to set foot in the U.S. was Su-Lin, a three-pound giant panda cub who was brought to the U.S. by a New York fashion designer. Su-Lin was given to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, starting a trend of giant pandas in zoos across America.

Ling-Ling lived at the National Zoo until she died in 1992. At the time of her death, she was the oldest giant panda living in a zoo outside China. Hsing-Hsing died in 1999.

The arrival of Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in December 2000 marked the beginning of a 10-year research plan focused on improving the survival rate of giant pandas in zoos and maintaining their numbers in the wild.

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