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Our Giant Panda Hopes Come Crashing Down

And so another year will pass without the pitter patter of little panda feet in Washington.

Little giant panda feet, that is. Mei Xiang is not pregnant.

There will be those who blame Obama. Didn't he promise change in Washington? Didn't he say he would give us hope? Critics will point out that every single baby giant panda seen in Washington was born during a Republican administration, even the ones that died.

Of course, there is no one to blame. Yes, male pandas do not perform well in captivity (would you?) and thus must fertilize their mates from another room with the help of humans wearing rubber gloves and holding syringes and clipboards. Yes, female pandas don't make things easy, what with ovulating only once a year.

And a zoo, even one as nice as the National Zoo, isn't where most animals want to start a family.

But it's no one's fault. Just chalk it down to fate.

The National Zoo's giant pandas are celebrities and if Mei Xiang was human she could, like Madonna, adopt. Madonna goes to Africa. Mie Xiang could go the African lion exhibit and bring home a cub. I'd like to see her take in a naked mole rat, an animal that looks like a panda baby for its entire life.

Who am I kidding? That's not going to happen. And now we face the prospect of being giant panda-less in a few years, when our lease runs out with the Chinese. Yes, we might get an extension but that will depend on the state of U.S.-China relations. The pandas will be like pawns on a chessboard -- both the black and the white pawns.

There's no denying the sadness that's settled over Washington today. It's picturebook spring outside, cool and clear with a lovely blue sky. It's a day for baby animals, just not the one we crave. As they say in baseball, better luck next year.

By John Kelly  |  May 20, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
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Pandas are disgusting. Send that fat tub of goo back to China.

Posted by: FridayKnight | May 20, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, at least they will reopen the panda house, but I'm still very disappointed.

At least we have one 'baby,' even though he is 4 years old.

Posted by: swissmiss150 | May 20, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Not to make the hopes go subterranean, but The National Zoo only has Giant Pandas by the grace of China. Even Tai Shan belongs to them - after July of this year, they can take him back whenever they like. New panda cubs or no, we could be panda-less at any time. That's pretty much the deal China strikes with any country that wants Giant Pandas (though our leases seem to be more expensive).

Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling were outright gifts to the US - had any of their cubs survived, *those* cubs would have belonged to the US. But that was never the case with Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Their cubs were always going to be Chinese property and subject to removal by the terms of the lease contract.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | May 20, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse


Now if LiLo got preggers, that would be real news!!!!


Posted by: bs2004 | May 20, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

John: What in the world is wrong with some of your "bloggers"? I personally am very sad to hear that we won't be experiencing the joy of another new little one at the National Zoo's Panda House.

I spent many a joyful moment watching and giggling at the antics of Tai Shan on the Zoo's live web cam. I know there is always next year, but still.......

Posted by: iremembrmama | May 20, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least the naked mole rats have offspring. John, do a story on Kandula sometime soon. I imagine he's becoming quite a handful these days.

Posted by: justhere | May 20, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

FridayKnight's comment, the earliest, is one sick person. If you can't appreciate pandas, your life is not worth living.

Posted by: axolotl | May 21, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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