National Zoo reopens, welcoming newborn chicks and otter pups

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian National Zoo has reopened after the federal government shutdown, and William Lewis and his mom, who came all the way from South Carolina, were one of the first in line.

“I’ve been to almost all the zoos and this is my favorite one I’ve been to ’cause they have the pandas,” Lewis said. Just barely tall enough to peer over the rails, he said he’s most excited about visiting with Bei Bei the panda. Then he would like to head off to see the tigers. It’s a visit he and his mom said they couldn’t pass up before their flight home.

Charlene Rubik came to the zoo for the first time, visiting from Canada. “This is the first day that we really get to enjoy the sites that are just opening,” said Rubik. Her first stop was also the panda exhibit, a big hit with guests and those who have been waiting for the panda cam to come back online for weeks.

Smithsonian's National Zoo is hoping to continue making the place an animal and people-friendly place to visit by adding more of fences throughout the zoo to increase visitor safety. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
The National Zoo has reopened after the government shutdown, and the humans and animals were quite happy to see each other. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

Brandie Smith, the zoo's associate director of animal care sciences, said some of the animals made it clear they missed having visitors during the shutdown. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Brandie Smith, the zoo’s associate director of animal care sciences, said some of the animals made it clear they missed having visitors during the shutdown. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

The panda cam is back online! (WTOP/Melissa Hiowell)
The panda cam is back online!

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Smithsonian's National Zoo is hoping to continue making the place an animal and people-friendly place to visit by adding more of fences throughout the zoo to increase visitor safety. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Brandie Smith, the zoo's associate director of animal care sciences, said some of the animals made it clear they missed having visitors during the shutdown. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
The panda cam is back online! (WTOP/Melissa Hiowell)

Brandie Smith, the zoo’s associate director of animal care sciences, said there were some additions to the family during the shutdown. “We had a Kiwi chick that was born. and we had three North American river otter pups and a lesser kudu born.”

Smith said some of the animals made it clear they missed having visitors during the shutdown. “Especially our elephants and great apes; when we would walk through the houses, they would
definitely show more interest.”

Smith said the main focus was keeping staff morale up, and thanked the community for their support.

Steve Monfort, the National Zoo’s director, also acknowledged the roughly 190 staff members who helped keep operations running. “It was really the animal care staff that did the heroic work of just coming to work everyday under pretty trying circumstances and doing their jobs.”

More good news: The panda cam is back online!

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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