Bei Bei Takes His First Steps

This update was written by giant panda biologist Laurie Thompson and keeper Nicole MacCorkle

This morning, Bei Bei weighed 5.35 kilograms, or 11.79 pounds. His ear canals are open, and keepers have noticed that he is starting to respond to noise. Mei Xiang has been bringing Bei Bei out of the den to the indoor enclosure regularly and leaving him while she eats or goes outside. Under her watchful eye, Bei Bei took his first steps on Monday, November 9 around 4:50 p.m. Check out the video!

Now that he's got all four paws under him, we expect Bei Bei to leave the den to explore on his own soon. It may take a bit more time for him to get the hang of walking, since the enclosure floor is smooth and provides less traction than the rocks.  

As Bei Bei starts walking and eventually climbing on his own, panda cam viewers may see him take a tumble from time-to-time, which is normal and part of the growing process!Panda cubs are very sturdy (remember that they have thick fur that cushions them). When Bei Bei is ready to climb independently, he will be able to withstand most falls. And Mei Xiang would not put Bei Bei on the rocks if he wasn't ready. With her first cub, Tai Shan, keepers quickly learned that Mei Xiang is more effective than any amount of cub-proofing keepers can do. She would remove Tai Shan from the rockwork if she didn't want him there.And she did the same with Bao Bao.

Once Bei Bei has mastered walking, and later running, play sessions between mom and cub will be very fun to watch. Mei Xiang already plays with Bei Bei, as she did with his older siblings. You can often see big sister Bao Bao and dad Tian Tian being very playful in the crisp fall mornings in the panda yards, too.

Some panda cam viewers have asked recently why they sometimes see Mei Xiang reacting to sounds and exhibiting protective behaviors. Because of our high-definition camera system, noises that are heard through the microphones are often amplified and appear much louder than they actually are in the panda house. What may sound like loud noises are likely just normal sounds in and around the panda building: keepers cleaning, keeper walkie-talkies, doors being operated, etc. Occasionally, Mei Xiang reacts to these sounds by honking, particularly when her focus is elsewhere (when she's tending to Bei Bei, for example, or catching up on her own rest). She is an excellent mother, so when she hears a sound that startles her and/or Bei Bei, she moves closer to him and often changes his position to protect and comfort him. We are lucky to be able to observe this natural behavior in real time.

ICYMI: You can see a video of Bei Bei's vet exam on November 5! Vets tested his leg strength and checked his teeth. 

The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has been closed to the public since Aug. 20, and will remain closed until further notice to provide quiet. You can see Bei Bei on the panda cam, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund. 

Don't forget to follow @smithsonianzoo on Instagram for more photos and videos with the hashtag #PandaStory!