Two giants pandas return to D.C.’s National Zoo. (This sentence is shorter and clearer, maintaining the same meaning as the original sentence.)

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C. has announced that it will be welcoming two new giant pandas, Bao Li and Qing Bao, by the end of the year. This comes after a renewed agreement with the Chinese government. The zoo’s director, Brandie Smith, expressed excitement about the new arrivals, stating that they are a descendant of the beloved panda family that previously resided at the zoo.

Giant pandas are highly valued in Washington and across the nation and the world. The number of pandas in American zoos has decreased due to expired loan agreements during diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China. The three pandas from Washington returned to China last November, leaving only one panda family in American zoos.

The news of the new pandas has sparked excitement among visitors, with signs announcing “The Pandas Are Coming!” and a surge in panda-themed merchandise sales. Sofia Valle, an 8th grader from Bear, Delaware, visited the zoo with her classmates, unaware that it is currently panda-free. She expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming arrival of the new pandas.

The arrival of the pandas will bring a boost to the local economy, with businesses near the zoo anticipating increased sales. When they arrive, the pandas will spend several weeks in quarantine to acclimate to their new environment. Mariel Lally, one of the zoo’s panda keepers, expressed her eagerness for the pandas’ arrival.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had signaled during a trip in late 2023 that China would be sending new pandas to the United States. He referred to them as “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.” The zoo accompanied the announcement with a light-hearted video featuring the zoo’s director, the Smithsonian Institution Secretary, and first lady Jill Biden discussing the upcoming reception to welcome the new pandas.

It’s possible that America will welcome another new panda pair before the Atlanta bears depart. The San Diego Zoo has also announced plans to receive pandas Yun Chuan and Xin Bao, and a separate agreement was made to send a breeding pair of pandas to San Francisco as well.

Pandas have been a symbol of U.S.-China friendship since Beijing sent a pair to the National Zoo in 1972, ahead of the normalization of bilateral relations. Later, Beijing loaned pandas to other U.S. zoos, with proceeds going back to panda conservation programs. However, tensions between the two countries led to demands for the return of giant pandas, with allegations of mistreatment at U.S. zoos circulating on Chinese social media.

The National Zoo has provided details about the new pandas. Bao Li, a 2-year-old male, was born to parents An An and Bao Bao at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan. Qing Bao, a 2-year-old female, was born on September 12, 2021. The research and breeding agreement with the Chinese government runs through April 2034, with any cubs born at the zoo moving to China by age 4. The zoo will pay a $1 million annual fee to the China Wildlife Conservation Association to support research and conservation efforts in China.