Bao Bao's birthday bash all set

Updated: 2014-08-21 11:09

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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In the Washington National Zoo's giant panda habitat early Wednesday afternoon, cub Bao Bao was taking a nap on top of a rock formation in the pavilion while her mother, Mei Xiang, paced from room to room.

Neither of them seemed aware that the zoo was busy making preparations for a big birthday party Saturday morning, when Bao Bao turns one year old.

A private party for members of Friends of the National Zoo will be held from 9 am to 11 am, when the public celebration kicks off. It will open with a panda-keeper demonstration, followed by presenting Bao Bao and Mei Xiang with a special frozen cake at 11:30 am. There will also be a panda-keeper talk at 1:30 pm.

 Bao Bao's birthday bash all set

Panda cub Bao Bao (top left) takes a nap on Wednesday afternoon while her mother Mei Xiang paces in the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat in the National Zoo in Washington. The zoo will throw a big birthday party for Bao Bao on Aug 23 when she turns one year old. VIPs are expected. Chen Weihua / China Daily

The celebration will also have plenty of Chinese touches. While Americans celebrate birthdays with cakes, the Chinese eat noodles, which, according to tradition, symbolize longevity.

Guests on Saturday will have the opportunity to enjoy complimentary dandan noodles on a first-come, first-served basis. Dandan is a cold dish from southwest China's Sichuan province where the Chinese Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong is located.

A special game, known in Chinese as zhuanjiu, or "lucky draw", will let Bao Bao pick from a variety of items, such as fruits and other objects, placed before her. Each item holds symbolic meaning and the object Bao Bao chooses is said to foretell something about her future.

The zoo has already announced that Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US, Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, Brandie Smith, senior curator at the zoo, and Marty Dearie, animal keeper at the zoo, will attend the party Saturday morning.

Inside the pavilion where Bao Bao was snoozing on Wednesday, four-year-old Joshua Kopatch, carried by his mom, was shouting "panda, panda" through the glass to Bao Bao and Mei Xiang.

"Here is the panda," he told his mom. The two had come 35 miles from Pasadena, Maryland, to visit the zoo. The mother, on learning that Bao Bao's birthday was on Saturday, asked her son if he could sing "Happy Birthday" to Bao Bao.

Bao Bao had already received a big birthday present on Tuesday when she was voted the "most iconic in the Smithsonian" in the Smithsonian Summer Showdown.

According to the zoo, Smithsonian fans cast more than 90,000 votes, narrowing the contenders from 24 to one.

The zoo also released a video on Tuesday chronicling Bao Bao's first year, in which some of Bao Bao's keepers talk about interesting anecdotes in the cub's upbringing.

While many people may still remember the cub as the tiny pink creature she was a year ago, the soon-to-be one-year now weighs more than 40 pounds and likes to venture high into the trees of the habitat's yard every day.

Near the zoo, some businesses have also cashed in on people's love affair with the darling of the zoo. Lillies Restaurant on Connecticut Avenue is promoting weekend special Bao Bao pancakes.

There are now 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild and 376 living in human care, most in China.

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. A naming celebration held at the zoo last Dec 1 featured videotaped messages from Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan and US first lady Michelle Obama.

(China Daily USA 08/21/2014 page1)