National Zoo in Midst of Bamboo Shortage

Supply dwindling for zoo's star residents

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009  |  Updated 10:01 AM CDT
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The National Zoo is running out of bamboo and is asking local farmers for help.

The Zoo said it harvests about 75,000 pounds of bamboo a year for its giant pandas, red pandas, Asian elephants, gorillas and other animals. The Zoo’s giant pandas alone are offered 1,400 pounds of bamboo a week.

The Zoo grows bamboo on site and at several other locations, including at its Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., and at private residences in the District and in Fort Washington, Md., and Fairfax, Va.

Zoo officials said the bamboo stands are not regrowing as they normally would for unknown reasons. Nutritionists hope for better regrowth this spring.

In the meantime, the Zoo expects to deplete its supply before the end of the winter. If the Zoo can't locate additional stands, it will resort to harvesting bamboo from scant stands around various animal exhibits on Zoo property.

The Zoo wants bamboo stands that meet the following criteria:

  • Comprise a minimum of one acre
  • Are within a 25- to 30-mile driving distance of the Zoo
  • Are at least 100 feet from a roadway
  • Have not been treated with herbicides or pesticides

The Zoo said it will accept any species of bamboo, but it is most interested in species of the Phyllostachys genus, which can be identified by two characteristics: a prominent groove running vertically along each segment of the stem and a white ring underneath the stem’s nodes.

Landowners who grow bamboo can contact the Zoo’s Department of Animal Nutrition at NZPBamboo@si.edu or (202) 633-4098.

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