One of the Last Pandas in the U.S. Makes Bold Prediction for College Football’s Peach Bowl Winner

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In the lead-up to the highly anticipated Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the spotlight turned to an unusual but revered expert at Zoo Atlanta to forecast the winner. Yang Yang, a 26-year-old male giant panda, was entrusted with the task of predicting whether the Ole Miss Rebels or the Penn State Nittany Lions would emerge victorious on December 30.

Zoo Atlanta orchestrated the prediction ritual on December 14, as Yang Yang was presented with two identical-sized boxes adorned with the logos of the competing teams. In an outdoor habitat, the giant panda swiftly chose the box featuring the Penn State logo, tearing through it to retrieve the hay within — thereby declaring his official selection as the Penn State Nittany Lions. This marked Yang Yang’s eighth year participating as the panda prognosticator for the Peach Bowl winner.

Yang Yang is among the four giant pandas residing at Zoo Atlanta, which stands as the sole U.S. zoo housing these revered bears. Notably, the three giant pandas housed at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Conservation Biology Institute recently returned to China. This marked the first time since 2000 that the National Zoo had been without pandas, following the departure of the 26-year-old Tian Tian, 25-year-old Mei Xiang, and their 3-year-old son Xiao Qi Ji on November 8, returning to Chengdu, China.

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Zoo Atlanta’s giant panda loan agreement with China is set to conclude in late 2024. However, specific details about the pandas’ future arrangements beyond the expiration of the loan in 2024 have not been disclosed. Discussions between Zoo Atlanta and its Chinese partners regarding the status of the giant panda program post-2024 have not yet taken place.

Despite this uncertainty, Zoo Atlanta’s contributions to giant panda conservation efforts have been significant, with the institution having contributed over $16 million to support initiatives aimed at the conservation of these beloved creatures.

The departure of the National Zoo’s pandas signifies a transitional period for panda conservation efforts in the U.S., while the future arrangements for these iconic bears at Zoo Atlanta remain to be determined as their loan agreement approaches its conclusion in 2024.