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National Zoo Gets $4.4M Donation For Pandas

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The zoo's female panda, Mei Xiang, in 2010. The National Zoo will announce a $4.4 million donation to keep the zoo's panda program going today.
Smithsonian's National Zoo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalzoo/5856565863/in/set-72157627014256050)
The zoo's female panda, Mei Xiang, in 2010. The National Zoo will announce a $4.4 million donation to keep the zoo's panda program going today.

Philanthropist David Rubenstein is making a $4.4 million donation to the National Zoo's giant panda program. David Rubenstein, who sits on the board of regents at the Smithsonian, is making the donation to fund the pandas for the next five years. He says he hopes the gift will result in the birth of more pandas to the zoo.

The donation, described as a holiday gift for the National Zoo and the city, will cover the expenses of running the giant panda reproduction program as well as panda research both here and in China. The gift comes at a time when corporate sponsorships have been harder to come by, even though they are one of the most popular attractions at the National Zoo.

"They are also an animal that has also attracted world-wide attention for quite some time," says Rubenstein. "So I thought as a symbolic type of gesture to say we ought to preserve animals whenever we can. The pandas are really a symbol of that."

Chi Chang, a zoo visitor from Columbia, Maryland says she thinks the donation is wonderful: "You know, panda has been such a sensation to the whole Washington area, even actually the whole world."

The pandas, meanwhile, remain largely indifferent. It’s the start of mating season for Giant Pandas and scientists at the National Zoo say Tien Tien has been showing signs of breeding behavior. His partner Mei Xiang, the female, is today hanging out in the sun.

The pandas are on loan to the zoo from China until 2015.

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