National Zoo Gets $4.5M Gift To Fund Giant Panda Program

11:51 PM, Dec 19, 2011   |    comments
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Video: National Zoo Gets $4.5M Gift To Fund Giant Panda Program

  • National Zoo Gets $4.5M Gift To Fund Giant Panda Program
  • This photo of Mei was taken on June 9, 2005, one month before she gave birth to her first cub, Tai Shan (Courtesy: National Zoo)

WASHINGTON (WUSA) - The National Zoo has received $4.5 million to fund the giant panda program for the next 5 years.

David M. Rubenstein made the donation and the giant panda complex will be named in his honor (the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat). Conservation biologists in the U.S. and China awarded National Zoo fellowships for work to save the giant pandas will be called David M. Rubenstein Fellows. Rubenstein is the co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group and a member of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents.

The money will be used to "fund conservation efforts in China, reproductive science, professional training programs, giant panda care at the Zoo, upgrades to the Zoo habitats and public education," according to a statement from the zoo.

The zoo's male panda Tian Tian and female Mei Xiang have only produced one cub and said it was unlikely that Mei Xiang would have another cub.

In a statement Monday, SCBI reproductive physiologist Pierre Comizzoli said, "It's important that we use modern biomedical tools to try and make sure that every genetically valuable individual panda reproduces." The zoo says that it will receive frozen semen from a deceased male panda from the San Diego Zoo this year to be used if the pandas at the National Zoo don't mate sucessfully. Zoo officials say that Tian Tian has been showing some behaviors that indicated breeding behavior.

In January, the Smithsonian signed a five-year agreement with China to keep the pandas in D.C. The agreement stipulated that one or both could be traded for other pandas if they can't breed.

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