WASHINGTON - Panda Palooza kicked off on this first day of fall inviting dozens of panda fans to say goodbye to three beloved pandas.
Saturday’s soggy weather certainly was no challenge for panda enthusiasts as they —some of whom, were dressed for the part — trickled into the Smithsonian National Zoo. After calling the zoo home for more than two decades it was time to say goodbye to the 3 beloved giant residents, as their caretakers prepare them to return them to China.
"Pandas are my favorite animal and I moved here for them, so I want to be able to say goodbye to them. I have always loved pandas for basically my entire life," says Alexandra Schechter, a 9-year-old panda fan.
Each giant panda even got its own farewell cake as onlookers whipped out their phones and fancy cameras to catch the best angle and best moments whenever the pandas came Out of hiding and nibbles at the specially made sweet treat.
Under an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), which owns the animals, as well as the vast majority of pandas held in captivity— the trio must return to China by December 7.
The partnership is part of China’s ongoing efforts to preserve the species, which were on the endangered species list for more than 25 years until 2016.
Panda Palooza which will last until October 1st and includes live music performances, free screenings of the films Kung Fu Panda and The miracle Panda—plus a conservation-focused scavenger hunt, a Chinese calligraphy station, panda talks and more.
Visitors must get free passes online to attend the festivities.