National Zoo gets $4.5 million for panda breeding
Dec 22, 2011 by Sea Beez
Philanthropist David M. Rubenstein visited the pandas with China’s ambassador to the United States to announce the gift. Rubenstein is a co-founder and managing director of the Washington-based private equity firm The Carlyle Group. He is also on the board of regents at the Smithsonian Institution, which includes the zoo.
Rubenstein said the money is a holiday gift to the people of Washington and to the country because pandas make people happy.
“Hopefully this will result in more pandas being born here,” he said.
The gift will also fund fellowships for biologists in the United States and China to work to save pandas, which are an endangered species.
With the funding commitment, the zoo can proceed with a five-year plan established with Chinese wildlife officials to try to produce another cub after years of trouble. Washington’s pandas have produced only one cub, Tai Shan, who was sent to China to begin breeding.
The zoo said male panda Tian Tian has been showing early signs of breeding behavior. But the zoo is securing frozen semen from a now-dead panda at the San Diego zoo to use as a backup next year.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui visited the zoo Monday and thanked Rubenstein for helping to continue research on panda conservation. He said he greeted Tian Tian and other pandas as well.
“I’m very happy to see they’re in good shape and they were enjoying their breakfast,” he said. “I actually sent my Christmas and New Year’s greetings to them, and I also told them that their son Tai Shan is doing very well in Sichuan, China.”