Bye-bye Bei Bei: National Zoo's panda cam goes dark amid government shutdown

For panda enthusiasts, the shutdown just became unbearable.
Image: USA-CHINA-ANIMAL-PANDA-ZOO-TOURISM
Bei Bei makes his public debut at the National Zoo in Washington on Jan. 16, 2016.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Jane C. Timm

The Smithsonian National Zoo's beloved live panda cam was turned off on Wednesday amid the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The National Zoo stayed open during the first 11 days of the shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, by tapping into unused dollars from the previous year, but closed its doors to the public on Tuesday night with Congress and the White House still at an impasse over the $5 billion President Donald Trump has demanded for his border wall.

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The cam was shut down on Wednesday morning, according to Twitter users who followed its final hours of cuteness.

The government funding feud leaves giant panda bears Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Bei Bei — whose days spent tumbling in their enclosure and chomping on bamboo have been broadcast to tens of thousands of fans 24/7 for years — without an audience.

"The Smithsonian's National Zoo is closed due to a federal government shutdown. The Zoo's live animal cams require federal resources, primarily staff, to run and broadcast. They are deemed non-essential and will not stream live until the federal government reopens," the zoo wrote online. "All the animals continue to be fed and cared for."

The zoo's somewhat less popular elephant, lion and naked mole-rat streams have also been shut down, but the panda cam has long been a fan favorite. In 2015, when Mei Xiang gave birth to twin panda cubs in 2015, it drew nearly a million viewers. The camera is also used by zoo volunteers to collect behavioral data on the giant pandas.

A note on the National Zoo's website says that the zoo's live animal cams will not stream live until the federal government reopens.National Zoo

Federal funds make up approximately 70 percent of the Zoo's operating budget. When it's open, the zoo is free to visitors.

Panda enthusiasts in need of a fix could direct their cursors west to the San Diego Zoo's website, where pandas Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu, are still being broadcast. The private zoo costs visitors $56 a pop.