The Washington Post

Panda cub arrives in wake of big donations to National Zoo

The National Zoo has a new panda cub, an event that, if past is precedent, will create a great deal of buzz for quite some time.

The giant panda birth is the second at the National Zoo and comes in the wake of millions of dollars in donations towards researching giant pandas. On Sept. 5, the Ford Foundation announced, a $400,000 donation over the course of two years to study giant panda health and to upgrade the camera system used to monitor the giant pandas at the zoo — a welcome upgrade for not only zoo officials, but for panda enthusiasts in Washington, D.C., and around the world.

“The upgrade to our panda cams will make a significant difference for the millions of people that watch and learn about Mei and Tian remotely,” said Smithsonian National Zoological Park Director Dennis Kelly via a news release at the time. Now, that list of panda cam stars includes the yet-to-be-named cub. The system, which is currently analog, is slated to be converted to digital, paving the way for the rest of the zoo’s monitoring cameras to be converted as well.

The Ford donation came nine months prior to a much larger, $4.5 million one from Carlyle Group co-founder David M. Rubenstein. The donation was to cover five years of research in the United States and China and giant panda reproduction efforts, The Post’s Michael E. Ruane reported in December. At the time, Rubenstein described the donation as a holiday gift. The gift offered zoo staff an opportunity to turn away from fundraising and toward the reproduction effort. At the time, zoo officials said 2012 would be the last year they would try to achieve a pregnancy after five years of false pregnancies.

Rubenstein was named among the 2011 Philanthropy 50 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, coming in at number 20. The leading beneficiary of his donations are the libraries of his alma mater, Duke University. Other beneficiaries are the White House Historical Association, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Read more: National Zoo welcomes baby panda

Read more on charitable giving from On Giving.

Emi Kolawole is the editor-in-residence at Stanford University's, where she works on media experimentation and design.

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