National Zoo announces Panda Tai Shan's destination in China
Panda destination set
The National Zoo announced Wednesday the exact destination for its departing giant panda, Tai Shan, will be the Bifengxia Panda Base just outside the city of Ya'an, in the mountains of south-central China.
The base was opened to the public in 2003 in a region of the country that is a traditional home to pandas and is somewhat similar to the mountainous Appalachian areas of southwestern North Carolina. The base is said to have a panda hospital, breeding center and 68 resident pandas. Several pandas were evacuated there for safety after the 2008 earthquake in China.
Tai Shan, who was born at the National Zoo in 2005, is technically Chinese property, according to an agreement that brought his parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, to the zoo in 2000. The 4-year-old panda, who will enter a breeding program, is scheduled to fly to China on Feb. 4 after a week of official and unofficial farewells.
A goodbye party is set for Saturday at the zoo. The last day of public viewing is Wednesday.
-- Michael E. Ruane
Water rate dispute
Fairfax County and Falls Church have agreed to suspend a $2.2 million payment related to a dispute over water rates until all appeals are exhausted.
A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge ordered this month that Falls Church stop transferring surplus money from its water-collection services to its general operating budget. Fairfax had argued that Falls Church unfairly subsidized low property tax rates for its homeowners by selling high-priced water.
In October, Falls Church transferred $2.2 million from its water fund to its general fund. Falls Church, a city of about 11,000 residents between Fairfax and Arlington counties, is already wrestling with a $7.7 million shortfall. The agreement calls for Falls Church to repay the money, plus 6 percent interest, if the city loses its appeals.