National Zoo to reopen Friday morning

WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - The Smithsonian's National Zoo's panda cam is back online, but the zoo itself is taking more time to reopen after the government shutdown.

The webcam went live Thursday morning giving fans a view of a much larger cub wriggling about as her mother, Mei Xiang, tucked her paws under her chin and watched.

Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the zoo will reopen to the public on Friday. She says the staff needs time to check all the buildings, paths and grounds. The zoo is also working to restore the staff's regular schedules after they were cut back during the shutdown.

All day Thursday at the zoo's front gate was a parade of pouty lips.

"We wanted to see the panda bears," says Leslie Miller.

One after another, visitors were turned away and told the zoo would reopen Friday at 10 a.m.

“I missed the animals and I wanted to come back so I’ll come back tomorrow,” says Chris Harris.

One more day was just too much for tourists and locals alike.

“Somebody told us that it would all be open today and so we thought of course the zoo will also open and so we came from Rockville by Metro and we walked on foot and now we’re very disappointed,” says Biggi Laetsch.

“I’m highly disappointed,” Laniqua Richardson says. “I drove over an hour to come see the panda bears today and I guess I’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”

Parents also expressed frustration.

“This is the last day that we’re here so it would have been nice if we could at least get one day at the zoo, especially for the kids,” says one parent.

Meanwhile, businesses near the zoo say their sales dropped dramatically in October with less foot traffic from zoo visitors and employees. But there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

When it reopens, the zoo will offer discounts on food and merchandise through Sunday to welcome visitors back. Also the carousel will be free for visitors under age 18.

The Panda House will remain closed to the public likely through the winter months, according to zoo officials. Visitors hoping to see the pandas are better off checking them out online from home on the panda cam.