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.
May 20, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
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