The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to “provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats.”
The National Zoo has two campuses. The first is a 163-acre (66 ha) urban park located at Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington, D.C., 20 minutes from the National Mall by MetroRail. The other campus is the 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI; formerly known as the Conservation and Research Center) in Front Royal, Virginia. On this land, there are 180 species of trees, 850 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants, 40 species of grasses, and 36 species of bamboo. The SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and propagating rare species through natural means and assisted reproduction. The National Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The two facilities host about 2,700 animals of 390 different species. About one-fifth of them are endangered or threatened. Most species are on exhibit at the Rock Creek Park campus. The best-known residents are the giant pandas, but the zoo is also home to birds, great apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals, and many more. The SCBI facility houses between 30 and 40 endangered species at any given time, depending on research needs and recommendations from the zoo and the conservation community. The zoo was one of the first to establish a scientific research program. Because it is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo receives federal appropriations for operating expenses. A new master plan for the park was introduced in 2008 to upgrade the park’s exhibits and layout.
David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat
The zoo’s Giant Panda Habitat features three outdoor areas with animal enrichment, an indoor area with a rocky outcrop, a waterfall, and viewing areas. The zoo’s pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are on loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association and will live there until 2023. They are the focus of research, conservation, and breeding program that aims to preserve the species. The pandas live at the David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat, a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor exhibit. The exhibit is designed to replicate the rocky, lush terrain of the pandas’ natural habitat. EZ DC Junk Removal
A group of Asia-themed exhibits opened in 2006. Along with the giant pandas, the area also displays sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, a clouded leopard, Asian small-clawed otters, and Asian elephants. Next to the pandas is an exhibit formerly for a Japanese giant salamander, which is now home to several Northern snakeheads.
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