WASHINGTON, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The Smithsonian's National Zoo reopened in Washington D.C. on Friday at 20 percent of its full capacity, allowing guests to visit the nation's beloved giant pandas and many other wild animals.
"Today is a great day for the national zoo because our mission is about inspiring the public to care about wildlife," said Steve Monfort, director of the zoo in an interview with Xinhua on Friday morning.
He said the zoo is "very, very fortunate" since its staff have stayed safe and no animals in the zoo have been infected by the coronavirus.
Two giant lion statues guarding the zoo's entrance still sport colorful face masks and visitors aged 2 and older are also required to wear a face mask in the zoo. The number of free timed-entry passes is limited, down from some 20,000 pre-pandemic to less than 6,000 per day.
Furthermore, due to the highest popularity of giant pandas, especially Xiao Qi Ji, a 9-month-old cub born at the height of the pandemic, separate timed passes are needed to see them.
The cub, whose name translates into English as "little miracle," made his first public appearance on Thursday during a one-hour media preview, together with his mom Mei Xiang and dad Tian Tian.
The zoo closed in March 2020 and reopened in July, then shut down again in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.