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National Zoological Park Panda

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Photograph of panda eating surrounded by green text on yellow background.

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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. 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 different species of bamboo. The SCBI is a non-public facility devoted to training wildlife professionals in conservation biology and to 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 1,800 animals of 300 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. The National Zoo is open every day of the year except for December 25 (Christmas Day).

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute began as the dream of William Temple Hornaday, chief taxidermist at the Smithsonian from 1882 to 1887. In 1889 President Grover Cleveland officially signed an act of congress into law creating the National Zoological Park for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” Two years later, the animals who had been living on the National Mall had a new home. Frederick Law Olmsted, the premiere architect of the day, designed the Zoo within Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington, D.C., which officially opened in 1891. The Zoo has continued its legacy of saving species started by Hornaday throughout its more than 130-year history. The second half of the 20th century continued to bring conservation science breakthroughs at the Zoo. A research center dedicated to studying animal reproduction, behavior and ecology opened in 1965. Since its founding, the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), has celebrated many milestones, from endangered species births, to reintroductions to the wild, to revolutionary scientific studies. One of the most public facing of these was the arrival in 1972 of Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, the Zoo's first giant pandas, that launched an on-going international collaboration with Chinese scientists to better understand and save the critically endangered bears.


History. (2019, October 23). Retrieved November 13, 2019, from

National Zoological Park (United States). (2019, October 21). Retrieved November 13, 2019, from

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