Giant pandas are black and white bears that live in temperate-zone bamboo forests in central China. Among the best recognized—but rarest—animals in the world, they have come to symbolize endangered species and conservation efforts. As few as 1,600 giant pandas survive in the mountain forests of central China. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world; most of these pandas are in China.
Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are at the National Zoo under a Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, signed in January 2011, between the Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association. This extends the Zoo’s giant panda program through 2015. Mei and Tian are the focus of an ambitious research, conservation, and breeding program designed to preserve this endangered species.
It's been a big week for Bao Bao! She got her name on Sunday, thanks to the more than 120,000 votes cast. She now weighs a whopping 12.76 pounds! Keepers have noticed her putting bamboo in her mouth in an exploratory sort of way, though she's not eating yet.
Mei is beginning to take Bao Bao out of the den and into the large enclosure more frequently, even putting her up on the rockwork and allowing her to climb around on the lower level of the rockwork. The keepers have "baby-proofed" the panda enclosure by putting hay behind the rockwork to cushion any possible falls.
Like any human toddler, Bao Bao is still figuring out how to walk and move. The keepers noted her practicing walking quite a bit yesterday, and by this morning found her walking all over the place. It won't be long until she's a pro at all speeds and directions of panda locomotion!