The pandas are gone and D.C. is extremely unwell
The National Zoo's giant pandas officially departed D.C. Wednesday, and it's safe to say absolutely no one in the DMV is thriving.
Driving the news: The zoo made a surprise announcement Wednesday morning that its three pandas — Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji — would quite literally be FedEx-ed back to China in roughly one business day (okay, fine, it's a FedEx plane called the Giant Panda Express).
- The black-and-white furballs are headed back to the China Wildlife Conservation Association in Chengdu as part of an agreement with the Chinese government.
Why it matters: Pandas have become an integral part of the city — think tons of panda merch and "bearthday" celebrations — and people are not taking the mammalian migration well.
But perhaps no one is feeling the panda hangover quite like Salt Lake City influencer Bronwyn Newport, who took a red-eye to D.C. Wednesday morning to see them only to find out, well … the bears were already leaving the building.
- Newport's been a diehard panda stan since she was a kid, when someone brought her a stuffed panda from D.C., she tells Axios.
- And when we say diehard, we mean diehard: She has a panda Judith Leiber purse, a ton of Dolce & Gabbana panda gear, and a full-body panda costume (she recently wore it to pick her daughter up from the airport).
- Newport was especially excited to see Xiao Qi Ji — she fell in love with him during Covid via the Panda Cam.
The intrigue: This was Newport's fourth thwarted attempt to see the D.C. pandas — she was eating breakfast across from the zoo, waiting for it to open, when she got the news: The pandas were peacing. (Yes, she posted an Instagram story of the moment, tears and all.)
- Fear not: Newport says she's already scheming a trip to see Zoo Atlanta's pandas.
While the bears' bow-out brings a blow, it also makes for some extremely excellent content.
- News choppers brought some serious 1994 O.J. Simpson car chase vibes as they followed the FedEx trucks carrying the bears out of the city.
- The zoo and local outlets posted tributes to the bears via the kind of greatest hits montages seen during the Oscars' "In Memoriam" segment.
- And, of course, WMATA CEO Randy Clarke found a way to work a Metro plug into his panda goodbye.
Thought bubble: C'mon — if D.C. really wanted to give the panda fam a proper Washington goodbye, they would have made them schlep it out to Dulles on the Silver Line!
The bottom line: Cheer up, D.C. — we might not have the pandas, but we still have Basil the one-eyed opossum.
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