Panda to make her de­but

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

For months, visi­tors to the David Rubenstein Fam­ily Panda Habi­tat at the Na­tional Zoo in Wash­ing­ton have of­ten been dis­ap­pointed to find the pavil­ion closed for the sake of the breed­ing and nurs­ing the new gi­ant panda cub, whom many fans have been fol­low­ing on the 24/7 we­b­cam since she was born on Aug 23.

Named Bao Bao on her 100th day birth­day on Dec 1, she is fi­nally get­ting ready to meet the pub­lic.

The zoo said visi­tors will be able to see Bao Bao start­ing Jan 18, but mem­bers of Friends of the Na­tional Zoo will have the priv­i­lege to visit ear­lier, from Jan 11-17. The amount of the time Bao Bao and her mother Mei Xiang will be on ex­hibit each year will still de­pend on the bears’ be­hav­ior and they might not be on show for long pe­ri­ods of time dur­ing the first few weeks, ac­cord­ing to the zoo.

Zoo of­fi­cials told the me­dia that visi­tors will be asked to line up out­side the gi­ant panda habi­tat and be re­ceived on a first-come, first-served ba­sis.

When Tai Shan, the zoo’s pre­vi­ous panda cub, was get­ting ready to meet the pub­lic in 2005, the zoo is­sued tick­ets online. All 13,000 tick­ets were snatched up in two hours. Tai Shan re­turned to China’s panda breed­ing base in early 2010.

At gi­ant panda’s daily treat time around 1:30 pm on a sunny Thurs­day, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the male panda and Bao Bao’s fa­ther, were chew­ing on bam­boo sticks in their sep­a­rate yards while a zookeeper came, call­ing their names and throw­ing pop­si­cles wrapped in brown bags. It’s the best time of the day to view pan­das out­doors and visi­tors were amused watch­ing their funny eat­ing man­ners.

Bao Bao has been breast­fed by Mei Xiang since birth. So far, Bao Bao has shown sig­nif­i­cant progress in mo­bil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the zookeeper.

Bao Bao’s name was re­vealed at a cer­e­mony at the zoo on Dec 1 af­ter a pub­lic online vote drew 123,000 votes. Bao Bao, which means “pre­cious trea­sure” in Chi­nese, beat four other names. China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan and US First Lady Michelle Obama both sent their video greet­ings.

The gi­ant pan­das are all on loan from China. Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment, gi­ant panda cubs born out­side China also be­long to China. And Bao Bao will be able to stay in the Na­tional Zoo for four years be­fore it re­turns to China. A pre­vi­ous deal the Na­tional Zoo had with China al­lowed cubs to stay for only two years, but Tai Shan stayed two more years due to the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake which hit China’s gi­ant panda base in Sichuan in 2008.

There are only four zoos in the US that house gi­ant pan­das be­sides the Na­tional Zoo — San Diego, At­lanta and Mem­phis.

Gi­ant pan­das are among the world’s most en­dan­gered species and there are only about 1,600 of them liv­ing in the wild and some 300 liv­ing in cap­tiv­ity, mostly in China.

COUR­TESY OF SMITH­SO­NIAN ZOO

Panda cub Bao Bao and her mother Mei Xiang are seen in the pavil­ion of the David Rubenstein Fam­ily Panda Habit at the Na­tional Zoo in this Dec 13 photo.

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