We know, we know: T he National Zoo has pandas. And even a new baby! No one’s more excited than we are here at KidsPost about mom Mei Xiang, dad Tian Tian and their soon-to-be-named cub. But the zoo is home to about 2,000 other animals: from the very big, such as 10,000-pound elephant Bozie, to the very small, such as the naked mole rats , which weigh less than a pound. And among all of those animals are millions of facts! There’s a lot to see and learn here, and no time is better for a visit than right now, when the zoo becomes quieter after the summer rush.

We’ve gathered some of our favorite zoo facts from our own walk around the zoo, hoping to get you excited to take the path less traveled and check out some of the more unusual exhibits.


●The black pacu and other species of fish from the Amazon — a big, wet jungle, or rain forest, in South America — eat nuts and fruit. That’s because trees in the Amazon drop nuts and fruit into the rivers where the fish live.

American Trail

●The brown pelican can dive into the ocean from about 60 feet up in the air to catch its lunch. (That’s about as high as a six-story building.)

●The male gray seal tries to impress the ladies by stretching out his neck and showing off his nose.

●By studying an elephant’s poop, scientists can learn what the elephant ate, who its relatives are and even how old it is. Luckily, there is a lot of poop around to study: An elephant at the zoo poops 10 to 15 gallons a day.

●Female elephants stick together. The older ones, called “aunties,” teach the younger ones how to be good moms.

African Savanna

●The cheetah, which lives in many countries in Africa, can run faster than 60 miles per hour, which is about as fast as your parents drive the car on a major highway. But it can maintain that speed for only about 20 seconds. Then it has to rest.

●The Rüppell’s griffon vulture can fly higher than any bird, more than 36,000 feet up in the air. That’s as high as a large jet airplane flies.

Bird House

●Flamingos are pink because they eat a lot of shrimp and algae that contain reddish colors called carotenoids.

●Because whooping cranes were once in danger of becoming extinct, scientists started breeding them in captivity, or in man-made centers. So that these birds are not confused about who they are and what their species is, trainers working with them dress in white and use puppets that look like cranes.

Small Mammal House

●The sand cat, which lives in the desert in Africa and Asia, has furry paws so that it leaves no footprints in the sand.

Great Ape House

●Because apes in the wild spend about six hours a day looking for food, zookeepers hide the apes’ food.

●Gorillas are vegetarians.

●Orangutans make spoons out of twigs and use them to open fruit and scoop out the seeds.

— Moira E. McLaughlin