Panda cub Bei Bei to make public debut on Jan 16

Updated: 2015-11-18 05:41

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Panda cub Bei Bei to make public debut on Jan 16

Juan Rodriguez, giant-panda keeper at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, holds Bei Bei in this photo taken on Sunday. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Bei Bei, the giant panda cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, will make his public debut on Jan 16, the zoo announced Tuesday.

In the past three months, Bei Bei has turned from a pink, hairless cub weighing about 5 ounces to a robust 12.5-pound, black-and-white cub capable of crawling and sometimes walking on his own, the zoo said in a press release.

The giant panda team has been monitoring the cub closely since his birth on Aug 22. Bei Bei is larger than his older siblings Bao Bao and Tai Shan were at the same age.

Bei Bei got his name from Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan and US First Lady Michelle Obama when they visited the zoo on Sept 25. Both first ladies also sent video messages at a 100-day naming ceremony for Bao Bao, born on Aug 23, 2013.

The panda house at the David Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat at the zoo has been closed since August to give the mother and cub quiet and bonding time. When it reopens, the panda house will be open from 9 am to 4 pm daily, according to the zoo.

Since August, visitors to the zoo can see only Mei Xiang or Tian Tian, Bei Bei’s mother and father, respectively, when they walk into the yard. Bei Bei is visible on a live TV screen near the yard. The zoo operates a 24/7 webcam on the four giant pandas there.

Although the panda house will once again receive visitors in 2016, Mei Xiang and Bei Bei will continue to have access to the den where Bei Bei was born. When they spend time in the den, they will be visible only on the panda cams.

On high visitation days, visitors will be allowed into the panda house in small groups, according to the zoo.

The National Zoo was the first zoo to house giant pandas following President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China in 1972. Three other zoos, in Atlanta, San Diego and Memphis, Tennessee, also house giant pandas.