Zoo announces goodbye party for panda Tai Shan

By Michael Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010; 6:07 PM

The Friends of the National Zoo announced Thursday that it will host a "Farewell to Tai Shan" party at the zoo Jan. 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Officials said last month that the beloved 4-year-old giant panda, who was born at the zoo in 2005, was being sent to China according to the terms of an agreement with the Chinese government, which owns all giant pandas in U.S. zoos. Giant pandas are native to China.

Word of Tai Shan's departure sparked dismay among zoo visitors and promises of extensive farewells. Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said this will be the main public farewell event. Panda experts will be on hand, and panda lovers will be able to write Tai Shan goodbye cards.

Under the contracts that brought Tai Shan's mother, Mei Xiang, and father, Tian Tian, to the zoo from China, all three are Chinese property. Tai Shan was originally supposed to have been turned over to China when he turned 2, but China granted an extension that expired last month.

The 10-year agreement on the adult pandas expires later this year, but it is not yet clear if they, too, will be sent to China. Zoo officials are hoping for an extension.

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