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A government shutdown could cut short the National Zoo's panda goodbye celebrations

Male giant panda Xiao Qi Ji rolls around in his enclosure during a "Panda Palooza" event at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Saturday, in Washington, D.C. We're guessing he hasn't heard about the looming government shutdown.
Anna Moneymaker
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Male giant panda Xiao Qi Ji rolls around in his enclosure during a "Panda Palooza" event at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Saturday, in Washington, D.C. We're guessing he hasn't heard about the looming government shutdown.

A government shutdown could suck the life out of the party for some of Washington, D.C.'s most popular residents: the pandas.

The National Zoo is holding a series of panda-themed events to commemorate the departure of its only three pandas: elderly pandas Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their 3-year-old son Xiao Qi Ji are heading back to China. The nine-day farewell bash is just getting started. But Washington succumbing to a shutdown would cut the celebrations short a day early.

The three pandas are on loan from China under an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association and will return to the country by Dec. 7.

The zoo is holding the "Panda Palooza," its long anticipated goodbye party for the pandas, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1. Meanwhile, government funding will expire on Oct. 1, the same day the government would shut down if Congress can't pass a new funding plan.

Like all Smithsonian institutions, because the National Zoo receives federal funding, it too must close to the public in the event of a shutdown.

For many panda fans, the sendoff may be their last chance to see the trio before their farewell journey. After that, the zoo will be panda-less for the first time in more than 50 years.

Wind and rain has already has dampened the party, with the zoo canceling some Palooza events, The Washington Post reported. But the weather hasn't kept avid panda fans away. Local and out-of-state residents flocked to the zoo to catch a glimpse, with many sharing photos on social media of the pandas frolicking around the bamboo and munching on ice cakes.

As in shutdowns past, the halt of "nonessential" government functions would also mean the Smithsonian's live giant panda cam goes dark.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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