This update was written by giant panda keeper Nicole MacCorkle.
Bao Bao continues to grow steadily, and is becoming more active and inquisitive with each passing day. Therefore, keepers are maximizing this time while she is little and playful to lay the groundwork for future positive reinforcement training. Our adult pandas routinely participate in voluntary blood draws, blood pressure checks, ultrasounds and, when needed, radiographs. They also receive their preventive vaccinations in the training cage, all without anesthesia. Obviously, Bao Bao is not yet ready for such “grown up” behaviors now, but we are laying a foundation to build upon as we work toward our training goals for her.
We still go in with her each day, and often have to relocate her in the mornings as we try to get the indoor enclosures cleaned, and so that visitors can see her when the building opens. She is acclimating to our presence and the sound of our voices, and seems to be increasingly interested in what we are doing around her. Now is the time to engage her, and to work on her responding to us and moving in our direction when we call her name, so that someday soon, she will be able to shift on and off exhibit like her parents do. Bao Bao has also sampled some dilute apple juice, and cooked sweet potato, which will later be used as training rewards.
At first our training goals will be simple, like shifting when called, and climbing onto the scale to be weighed (which she seems to have already mastered, at least with the small cub scale!) We are beginning to work on things like target training, which will lead into more advanced husbandry behaviors. If Bao Bao is anything like her parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and her big brother Tai Shan, and is eager to train, then the sky is the limit!
Bao Bao is proving to be most active in the early mornings and in the midafternoon. Today she and Mei Xiang enjoyed an extended play session inside the panda house. Bao Bao pounced on Mei's head several times and even wrestled with a stalk of bamboo. All the excitement wore her out, and she was sound asleep in the den about an hour later.
Bao Bao's debut for the general public is Saturday, Jan. 18. The panda house will extend its hours in an attempt to accommodate the visitors expected to come see Bao Bao. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Jan. 18 through Jan. 20, and visitors will be allowed into the house in small groups to avoid overcrowding on a first-come, first-served basis. Bao Bao and Mei Xiang will have access to the den during those times, and may choose to spend time in it instead of on exhibit. Beginning Jan. 21 the panda house will open to FONZ members only from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. At 10 a.m. the panda house will open to the general public.
To commemorate Bao Bao’s debut, 30 lucky Instagrammers who follow @SmithsonianZoo on Instagram will be given special early access to the panda house to see Bao Bao Saturday, Feb. 1, for an InstaMeet or “#ZooMeet.” The 30 participants will be chosen from Instagrammers who register for the InstaMeet and will have half an hour to view and take photos of Bao Bao before the panda house opens to the public. Members of the panda team will also be available to answer questions. Registration for the InstaMeet is now open. Instagrammers chosen to attend the special opportunity will be notified by Jan. 27. They will be sharing their photos Feb. 1, using #ZooMeet and #Panda. Additional information on the InstaMeet and registration is posted to the Zoo’s website.
This panda update was written by keeper Nicole MacCorkle.
Like father, like daughter. Panda cam viewers may have noticed something interesting about Bao Bao’s resting habits—she frequently sleeps on her back, which is the preferred position for her dad Tian Tian as well. Early on a recent morning, she was observed sleeping on her back, scratching her belly exactly the way her dad does. For that moment in time, she looked just like a little mini Tian Tian!
Bao Bao’s coordination and climbing abilities are improving each day, and now she spends considerable time just exploring her enclosures, always under Mei Xiang’s watchful eye, of course. It won’t be long now until Bao Bao begins exploring the great outdoors as well, and that’s when all of the fun and extreme panda cub cuteness will really begin! Mei Xiang will really be busy keeping up with Bao Bao and all of her adventures in the new year.
Bao Bao will make her public debut Jan. 18. The panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat will be open from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20. Beginning Jan. 21 it will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
After four months of watching her grow on the panda cams, visitors to the Smithsonian's National Zoo will be able to visit Bao Bao starting January 18. Members of Friends of the National Zoo will be able to visit Bao Bao exclusively at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat from January 11 to January 17.
The amount of time Bao Bao and Mei Xiang will be on exhibit each day will depend on the bears' behavior. In the first few weeks they may not be on exhibit for long periods of time; they will spend more time on exhibit as Bao Bao gets older. They will also have access to the den, where Bao Bao has spent much of the past few months, and may choose to spend time in it instead of in public viewing areas.
In preparation for her debut, this morning Bao Bao is appearing before members of the media.
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