connecting with giant pandas

Come closer, please! I took this picture of my son at the panda exhibit at Washington DC's national zoo. He is leaning against the glass in the exhibit and we were rewarded almost immediately by Mei Xiang walking towards us.


At the new Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, two new yards feature several enriching features for both animal and visitor enjoyment and add more than 12,000 square feet to the pandas' outdoor exhibit. Additions to the indoor exhibit include a new room with a rocky outcrop and waterfall, another den, and more visitor viewing space and informational exhibits.


from Smithsonian Web Site


Experience Asia Trail with an online and audio tour from Fujilfilm.


The creation of this state-of-the-art research facility and habitat is made possible in part by Fujifilm, who donated $7.8 million to the Zoo's giant panda program, the single largest sponsorship ever provided to the Zoo.


Many sustainable design strategies, such as planted “green†roofs to reduce stormwater runoff, were incorporated into the new habitat. Other elements include a solar hot water system; natural tree-resin bound paving material, instead of petroleum-based asphalt, on the visitor paths; recycled rubber; sustainably harvested ipe wood, which is naturally resistant to pests and rot; and dried bamboo, because it is rapidly renewable resource and does not deplete the environment when harvested. more Asia Trail green elements


Outdoor Exhibit

The pandas' state-of-the-art Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat is designed to mimic the pandas' natural habitat of rocky, lush terrain in China. Each element has a purpose—from helping the pandas stay cool in hot weather to giving them a place to hide when they need privacy. There are rock and tree structures perfect for climbing; grottoes, pools, and streams for keeping cool; and shrubs and trees, including weeping willows, corktrees, and maples, and several species of bamboo.


Water-cooled grotto has cold-water pipes in the walls that provide a cool respite.

Low trees and shrubs provide shade and cover.

Fog grove creates a misty retreat from the heat.

Pools and streams offer refreshing dips on hot days.

Rocks and fallen trees allow for climbing and exercise.

Visitors can enjoy two levels from which to view the pandas, several areas where they may be just inches away from the bears, separated only by glass, and the new Clint Fields Conservation Plaza, where they can learn more about efforts to save pandas and their habitat through the stories of real people here and in China. At the Plaza's Decision Stations, people can get a sense of the complexity of conservation choices by watching videos about wildlife-people dilemmas and deciding which actions to take. Other features at the Plaza include a topographic map of the mountains of central China and exhibits about alternative economic activities to reduce habitat destruction. Portraits of villagers, scientists, park rangers, and others, with the real tools of their conservation work, will be highlighted. Multimedia displays of photos, video, and audio will give visitors a sense of place, introducing them to the sights and sounds of China's wilds.


As seen in Wired:

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Taken on August 23, 2007