If you Google “Washington with kids” one attraction that will invariably come at the top of the recommended list is the National Zoological Park – part of the Smithsonian Institution; this is another world class attraction that is free of charge. Whilst there are over 400 different species here, the Giant Pandas are the biggest draw and just a few weeks ago on August 22nd the zoo made international headlines when Mei Xiang gave birth to twins. Sadly one of the cubs died a few days later but the other is both healthy and thriving.
The new cub, a male, was named Bei Bei the day after our visit by Michelle Obama and First Lady of the People’s Republic of China, Peng Liyuan. He joins his sister Bao Bao, born at the zoo two years ago, to form a new family of four – eventually they will all return to China. Bei Bei is yet to make his outdoor debut and currently can only be viewed on the 24 hour panda cam as the panda house is closed to give Mei Xiang and Bei Bei some privacy but Tian Tian and Bao Bao can be seen outside when they choose to come out.
Aside from the pandas, we also enjoyed the Small Mammal House, where at one point a rather ugly looking, cricket-like insect landed on Alex’s arm, giving him a bit of a shock. A member of staff in the building said she thought it might have been an escaped entree for one of the small mammals, but I’m sorry to say that Alex didn’t take any chances and crushed it underfoot before there was any further discussion! He was much more enthusiastic about the Amazonia exhibit where at least the Tarantula and his lunch were safely behind glass.
John and Teddy enjoyed the Reptile Discovery Centre with its snakes, alligators and Komodo Dragon and John is keen to get a reptile, preferably a snake, as a pet one day to which the answer will be a rearrangement of the words: “dead over body my”…