Panda cub Bao Bao turns one

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

Panda cub Bao Bao has been the dar­ling of the Na­tional Zoo in Wash­ing­ton since she was born last summer. And the zoo is invit­ing every­one to join in her birth­day cel­e­bra­tion on Aug 23.

De­tails of the cel­e­bra­tion’s pro­gram have yet to be an­nounced, a pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cial at the zoo told China Daily on Thurs­day. But Bao Bao con­tin­ues to draw crowds daily.

On Thurs­day around noon, vis­i­tors were even fas­ci­nated by Bao Bao sprawled out idly on the edge of the mini rock­ery in­side the pav­il­ion of the David Ruben­stein Fam­ily Gi­ant Panda Habi­tat.

“Look, she is play­ing with her tail, up and down,” a woman in the crowd told her chil­dren.

Bao Bao’s mother, Mei Xiang, just cel­e­brated her 16th birth­day on July 22. The zoo is ask­ing fans to help cel­e­brate gi­ant panda con­ser­va­tion in honor of Bao Bao’s birth­day by us­ing new me­dia.

“Tweet a mes­sage about what Bao Bao rep­re­sents for con­ser­va­tion and wish her a happy birth­day us­ing #BaoBaoB­day,” the zoo tweeted on Wed­nes­day.

Mes­sages soon poured in via Twit­ter. “An early Happy Birth­day wish for Bao Bao. En­joy your­self. Thanks to the Chi­nese for shar­ing the won­ders of baby Pan­das,” tweeted Pat Pi­etrzak.

“I wasn’t a panda fan be­fore but our DC pre­cious treasure changed all that. Now I want to go to Chengdu,” wrote Suzy John­son, re­fer­ring to the gi­ant panda breed­ing cen­ter in Chengdu in south­west China’s Sichuan province.

“Happy Birth­day Bao Bao! You are adorable and we love watch­ing you grow up!” said Tan­ina Lin­den. The Na­tional Zoo op­er­ates a 24/7 live we­b­cam for Bao Bao and her par­ents.

“So ex­cited that I’ll be in DC and will ab­so­lutely be at the zoo on Au­gust 23,” said Emily Moses.

The Na­tional Zoo de­scribed Bao Bao as an am­bas­sador for her species and her birth rep­re­sents decades of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween sci­en­tists in both China and the US.

Sci­en­tists have learned much about gi­ant panda re­pro­duc­tion in the 42 years since Ling-Ling and Hs­ing-Hs­ing first ar­rived at the Na­tional Zoo fol­low­ing then US pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s ice-break­ing trip to China.

The re­search’s suc­cess has led to the more than 350 gi­ant pan­das now liv­ing in zoos and re­search cen­ters around the world. And in China, sci­en­tists are pre­par­ing to be­gin rein­tro­duc­ing pan­das born in cap­tiv­ity into the wild.

Bao Bao was the re­sult of a pre­cisely-timed ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion per­formed by Chi­nese and Amer­i­can sci­en­tists.

On Aug 23, 2013, af­ter 16 days of 24-hour be­hav­ior mon­i­tor­ing, the panda team learned that they had been suc­cess­ful when they watched Mei Xiang give birth to a tiny cub.

Bao Bao’s par­ents were both brought to the US in 2000 and later gave birth to a male cub later named Tais­han, who is now back in China for breed­ing. The China Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and the Na­tional Zoo have ex­tended the gi­ant panda pro­gram through 2015.

Bao Bao re­ceived her name af­ter a vot­ing cam­paign joined by some 100,000 peo­ple across the globe. The cel­e­bra­tion held at the zoo last Dec 1 fea­tured video­taped mes­sages from Chi­nese first lady Peng Liyuan and US first lady Michelle Obama.

The cub is fond of sleep­ing in trees and pop­si­cles are her fa­vorite food.

She has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in reg­u­lar train­ing ses­sions, but as al­ways, only on her terms, wrote keeper Ni­cole MacCorkle on the zoo’s web­site on July 14.

“On the days when she’s fo­cused, we make real progress — we build on old be­hav­iors she has mas­tered, and learn new be­hav­iors,” said MacCorkle.

Be­sides Wash­ing­ton, three zoos in the US keep gi­ant pan­das on loan from China: San Diego, At­lanta and Mem­phis.

CHEN WEI­HUA / CHINA DAILY

Panda cub Bao Bao, who will cel­e­brate her one-year birth­day on Aug 23, draws vis­i­tors on Thurs­day at the Na­tional zoo in Wash­ing­ton.

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