10 Cool Animals at the National Zoo


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The National Zoo in Washington DC exhibits 2,000 animals representing nearly 400 species. Nearly a quarter of the animals are members of endangered species and many of them are part of conservation efforts managed by Species Survival Plans. The National Zoo is a part of the ​Smithsonian Institution and is a leader in animal care, science, education, and sustainability. The following guide highlights some of the most popular animals.

01 of 10

Giant Pandas

Giant Pandas Enjoy Life at Washington Zoo
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The National Zoo is probably most known for these beautiful animals. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are the Zoo’s giant pandas, who are on a ten-year loan from China as part of a research, conservation, and breeding program. Mei Xiang gave birth to a female cub, Bao Bao in 2013. She also gave birth to a male cub, Tai Shan, in 2005 (cubs are transferred to China when they reach four years old). The pandas live at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, a state-of-the-art exhibit designed to mimic the pandas' natural habitat in China. Six other species live along the Asia Trail: sloth bears, fishing cats, clouded leopards, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, and a Japanese giant salamander.

02 of 10

Asian Elephants

Smithsonian National Zoo

The National Zoo's male Asian elephant, Kandula, is the fifth elephant calf in the world that was conceived through artificial insemination. Born in 2001, Kandula represents ​the first step in Zoo efforts to develop a herd of breeding elephants. In 2008, the Zoo began construction on Elephant Trails, creating an expansive new home for a multi-generational herd.

03 of 10

Sumatran Tigers

Sumatran Tigers
National Zoo

The Zoo is home to three Sumatran tigers: Damai, Soyono and Soyono’s 5-year-old offspring, Guntur. The National Zoo recently expanded the Great Cats program with the arrival of the two-and-a-half-year-old female Damai and is expected to bring a male tiger later this year to breed with her. The Great Cats exhibit has a new look with signs that provide up-to-date information about the species and highlight tiger conservation work.

04 of 10

African Lions

A wild male African Lion naps
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Ten African lions, three adults, and seven cubs are at home at the Great Cats exhibit at the National Zoo. Shera and Nababiep are sisters. On August 31, 2010, Shera gave birth four cubs. On September 22, 2010, Naba gave birth to three cubs. The lions alternate among available yards, but at least one lion is typically on exhibit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10


A cheetah running
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Two male cheetahs live at the Cheetah Conservation Station at the National Zoo. More than a dozen cheetahs are currently at the Zoo's Cheetah Science Facility at the Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. The facility provides an environment for breeding, as well as improved social opportunities for mothers to raise their young.

06 of 10

Andean Bears

Andean Bears at the National Zoo
National Zoo

Andean bears are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened animals. As their name suggests, they originate in the Andes mountain range and outlying mountain ranges, from western Venezuela south to Bolivia. The Andean bear's live next to the National Zoo's Amazonia Exhibit which houses tropical wildlife such as giant arapaima, pacu, red-tailed catfish, and piranhas and titi monkeys, tanagers, and a two-toed sloth.

07 of 10

Western Lowland Gorillas

Western lowland gorilla sits and thinks
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Six western lowland gorillas, including a female born in January 2009, can be found at the Great Ape House. The Zoo is home to many primates. Smaller primates, including golden lion tamarins, Geoffroy's marmosets, and howler monkeys, are on exhibit in the Small Mammal House.

08 of 10


Great blue heron
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The National Zoo is home to hundreds of birds from all over the world including cranes, herons, ducks, owls, and tanagers. The majority of the Zoo's birds live in the sanctuary-like Bird House but birds are also scattered throughout other exhibits.

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09 of 10

Small Mammals

Golden lion tamarin at the zoo
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Small mammals cut across many categories. Most species are rodents (such as the naked mole-rat), insectivores, and bats, but there are also carnivores (such as slender-tailed meerkats), and primates (such as golden lion tamarins).

10 of 10

Reptiles and Amphibians

Japanese giant salamander
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At the Reptile Discovery Center, visitors see a variety of reptiles and amphibians such as frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and Japanese giant salamanders. The Amazonia exhibit features a living tropical forest, which is home to free-ranging animals and a large aquarium with dozens of fish species.

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