Zoo Will Toast the ‘Butterstick’ On Saturday

Posted January 27, 2010 at 4:27pm

Have you ever wanted to party with a panda? If so, this weekend might be your last chance.

Tai Shan, the National Zoo’s 4-year-old giant panda who is also known as Butterstick, is leaving for China on Feb. 4. So the zoo is throwing him a farewell bash Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is a very difficult departure for us,— zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. “He is incredibly significant because he is the only surviving giant panda cub to be born at the National Zoo.—

All pandas are legally the property of China, so Tai Shan was slated to move there at age 2, Baker-Masson said. But the Chinese government let the zoo keep him longer for research — and because he wasn’t yet old enough to breed. Now that he’s mature, he’ll participate in a breeding program that aims to sustain wild panda populations.

“He has contributed vastly to our knowledge and understanding of giant pandas,— Baker-Masson said. “And he has served as an ambassador for giant pandas around the world.—

Saturday’s festivities will include traditional Chinese entertainment, talks by veterinarians, nutritionists and scientists, and of course some fun activities for the kids.

Children can make goodbye cards for Tai Shan, and the first 50 kids ages 12 and under to visit the panda habitat will get a free plush giant panda.