See Pandas, Elephants, Cheetahs and More Enjoy a Snow Day at the National Zoo

At least six inches of snowfall covered Washington, D.C. this week causing closures and delays for residents, but the zoo animals were out to play

A gif image of a panda cub rolling in the snow
Panda cub Xiao Qi Ji somersaults through the fresh powder. National Zoo via YouTube

For zoo animals, a blanket of fluffy snow on the ground creates the perfect stage for somersaults, scampering and snowflake-covered fur.

Cities on the United States’ East Coast were slammed by winter storms this week with snowfall totals between 6 to 12 inches in some areas, per Aamer Madhani and Parker Purifoy for the Associated Press. Schools and businesses announced delays and closures, while nearly 500,000 homes faced power outages due to gusty winds, Jason Samenow reports for the Washington Post.

Although the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. was officially closed on Monday and Tuesday, its critters welcomed the new year with several snow days all to themselves. Giant pandas, bison, elephants, sloth bears, cheetahs and more have been enjoying visitor-free time outside in the fresh powder.

Sloth bears Niko and Deemak playfully duked it out in the fluffy stuff. The Zoo’s bison stayed warm with their thick fuzzy fur while chewing on hay, and elephants took a few steps out into the frozen world as well.

A Bennett's wallaby gazes at the camera with snowflake-coated lashes
A Bennett's wallaby gazes at the camera with snowflake-coated lashes. National Zoo

At the Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, a cheetah and her cubs watched the flakes fall to the ground while they groomed frosty bits of ice off of each other.

Though kangaroos and wallabies prefer subtropical climates in the wild, the Bennett’s wallaby at the National Zoo is sure looking cute with snowflake-dappled eyelashes and fur.

Born August 2020, giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji wasn’t too keen about his first snow experience last year—although his panda companions certainly had a great time.

Snow Day for Giant Panda Cub Xiao Qi Ji: Jan. 3, 2022

With his mama Mei Xiang seen behind him in video footage, he’s much more excited about the snowfall this year. The 16-month-old panda cub tumbled boldly into the bushes and slid headfirst on his belly down a small hill in his enclosure. Later, the two can be seen tussling in the trees.

Though snowfall has paused for now, strong winds continue to damage trees and power lines while low temperatures overnight caused slushy areas to refreeze, per the Post. Another storm is expected to reach the nation’s capitol again on Thursday.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.