Tufts, 90, has been
the main supplier of bamboo for the giant pandas at the Smithsonian's National
Zoo since 1972,
when she responded to an ad in the Evening Star. The zoo had placed
the ad seeking bamboo donors for its latest arrivals,
Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, gifts of the People's Republic of China following President Nixon's historic visit.
For nearly three
decades, Tufts supplied bamboo for the pair until Hsing-Hsing died in 1999
at the age of 28. Ling-Ling had died seven years earlier, at 23. But in December 2000 Tufts again began supplying
bamboo after the Chinese government loaned the National Zoo two new pandas,
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, from its refuge in the Sichuan province.
Maryland Newsline traveled to Tufts' Fort Washington
farm and to the National Zoo in Washington to detail how the bamboo gets from
Tufts' groves to the pandas' mouths.
Photos, text and panda illustration by Sonia Kumar
Published May 1, 2001