Smithsonian National Zoological Park

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The elephant exhibit at the National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, commonly known in the United States as the National Zoo, is a zoo located in Washington, DC. Founded in 1889, it consists of two distinct installations: a 163 acre (0.7 km²) zoo within the Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, and a 3,200 acre (13 km²) Conservation and Research Center located in Front Royal, Virginia, at the edge of the Shenandoah National Park. The zoo in Washington DC is open to the public and dedicated in large part to education; the conservation center in Virginia is closed to the public and used primarily to breed and study endangered species. Altogether the two facilities contain some 2,700 animals of 435 different species.

The National Zoo also maintains numerous field stations around the world, providing expertise and logistical support to local research and conservation efforts in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and South America.

In 1972 the government of the People's Republic of China donated two giant pandas to the zoo after President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China. Both of these pandas have since died but were replaced with two new pandas.

In the past few years, mismanagement has led to the accidental deaths of around two dozen animals in the National Zoo's care, threatening the Zoo's accreditation and causing the resignation of its director. One incident involved the death of two red pandas from rat poison deployed by an illegally hired unlicensed exterminator, for which the city of Washington has sought to fine the Zoo over its claim of federally granted immunity.

The National Zoo maintains its own security police, the National Zoological Park Police, which consists of 50 full-time and part-time officers. They have concurrent jurisdiction over the zoo with the U.S. Park Police and the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police.

Special events

Annually, each Easter Monday, the National Zoo serves as the venue for the African American Family Celebration. This celebration has been a tradition for more than 100 years. The celebration began in response to the inability, until relatively recently, of African Americans to participate in the annual Easter Egg Hunt held at the Nation's White House. A key feature of the Zoo's celebration is a children's Easter Egg Roll.

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