Zoo panda Mei Xiang marks 19th with a treat
Cake nibbling delights fans; keepers wait, watch for baby signs
One of Washington’s bestknown teenagers celebrated a birthday on Saturday, at a time of great curiosity about her.
As it is often phrased in the gossip columns, the question is this: “Is she or isn’t she?” Mei Xiang, one of the National Zoo’s giant pandas, was artificially inseminated on May 25, and now it is a matter of wait and see.
In time, keepers expect behavior changes, altered hormone levels and ultrasound testing. But for now, a keeper said, the animal celebrity was “doing her normal routine,” interrupted slightly on Saturday for her 19th birthday.
To mark the occasion, the beloved bear received an elaborate frozen treat. Witnesses said it seemed to hit the spot on a sultry summer day.
“It was amazing,” said Amy Russian, a panda enthusiast who went to the zoo specifically to observe the celebration of Mei’s birthday.
“She spent an hour and 45 minutes on that cake,” Russian said.
It was clear, Russian said, “that she was happy about it.”
Another witness used Facebook to deliver comments directly to the birthday girl: “Mei, I have never seen any animal enjoy a birthday cake as much as you are enjoying your beautiful treat today.
“Happy Birthday, and many more!”
It was not just any cake that was offered to the panda.
Atop and along the sides of a frozen rectangular block were a variety of custom-made adornments, including a swirling pink rosette and snowflakes.
A partial list of ingredients for cake and decorations included apple juice, beet-tinted water, sliced apples and pears, plus fresh bamboo leaves — stems removed — in ice.
But now, for a few weeks anyway, it is back to panda routine for Mei. Except that she is seeing the zoo and her many admirers through the eyes of a 19-year-old.