What's happening to David Rubenstein's panda habitat
The National Zoo pandas will leave behind throngs of fans and acres of specially grown bamboo — but we want to know what's happening to their cushy, multimillion-dollar panda pad.
Why it matters: Carlyle Group philanthropist David Rubenstein donated $9 million over several years to fund the panda program — but what's the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat without giant pandas?
What's happening: The panda's sprawling indoor/outdoor living area and visitor center is getting a facelift, Mike Beglinger tells Axios. The zoo's associate director of planning, facilities, and exhibits says the habitat will get new containment walls, faux-rock, and updated amenities including a waterfall, pool, and climbing wall.
- Beglinger says the mixed-fund project will take eight to 10 months. It's projected to cost more than Madeleine Albright's Georgetown home (around $2.5 million).
What's next: There's no set timeline for when, or even if, pandas will return to the National Zoo. A zoo spokesperson tells Axios they're working with Chinese partners to develop a new giant panda program. So in the meantime, someone else on the Asia Trail may get an upgrade.
- "We have a shortlist of animals and we're committed to some kind of guest experience," says Beglinger. On that list: the less-hyped but still adorable red pandas.
What they're saying: "I think it's the red panda's time," Beglinger tells Axios.
The intrigue: While Rubenstein has had plenty to say about pandas in the past, he's tight-lipped. "David is not commenting on the panda situation at this time," Rubenstein's spokesperson Christopher Ullman wrote in an email.
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