For now, the super-popular Panda Cam that gives a live view of the National Zoo’s giant pandas is on but if the federal government shutdown continues, it could get turned off.
At 6:30 a.m. Monday, one of the cameras showed a sleeping panda. It was unclear which one it was. The cameras stream video of several of the pandas — Tian Tian, Bei Bei and Mei Xiang — in their enclosures 24 hours a day.
The zoo, along with the Smithsonian’s other sites, is open Monday despite the government shutdown. On the zoo’s website, the facility said it can “use prior year funds still available” to stay open. But it warned to check back for updates.
Zookeepers who tend to the 1,800 animals will show up for work regardless, officials said.
On Monday, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said “the Panda Cam is on today and operating. If the Smithsonian stays open, then yes, the Panda Cam will be operating.”
But if the Smithsonian changes its status and closes because of the shutdown, the camera probably will, too.
The Panda Cam has always been a popular attraction at the zoo. It allows viewers to see the pandas eating, being cared for and playing. Viewers have watched Mei Xiang care for her newborn cub, at times. When she gave birth in 2013 to a cub, the zoo had roughly 847,000 clicks on the panda-cam Web page in a month.
If the zoo has to close as part of the furlough and there’s less foot traffic, however, some of the animals might notice.
“We do see some differences in behavior with the animals,” Brandie Smith, the associate director for animal care sciences at the zoo, told WTOP. “A lot of people think the animals would be happy not to have the crowds coming here. But if you think about it, there are different people, different sites, different smells.”
She said it is tough to tell the exact differences for each animal. But in one case, she said, an emu named Darwin “absolutely loves the crowds.”
“He likes to be admired, so he’ll miss it when the visitors aren’t here.”
And an orangutan named Lucy will miss the crowds. She likes to show off for people, according to zoo officials.
“You’ll notice sometimes the animals that are looking a little differently, behaving a little differently when people aren’t around.”