On Aug. 23, 2013, a pink, squiggly giant panda cub named Bao Bao arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. She announced her presence with a hearty squeal to the delight of Panda Cam viewers around the world. Among those sharing the joy of the Zoo’s conservation success were the animal care staff who had helped make Bao Bao’s birth possible. As keepers prepare to say bye-bye to Bao Bao, they are sharing some of their favorite memories of the playful and inquisitive cub who made history.
“Bao Bao was the first giant panda cub I worked with, and I’ve learned so much watching her grow from the size of a butter stick to the 200-pound bear she is today. Weighing and measuring a squirmy—and noisy—panda cub is an experience like no other. She’s much easier to weigh now!” – Jenny Spotten, Asia Trail keeper
“At the public reopening of the Panda House following Bao Bao’s birth, she was amazing—as always. But, I especially enjoyed watching the visitors react to her. The looks on their faces made all of our hard work and long hours seem easier. I saw firsthand how much our pandas touch people’s lives and how much happiness they bring to everyone.” – Nicole MacCorkle, giant panda keeper
“My favorite Bao Bao moment was the first time she experienced a snow storm. Watching her roll down the hill holding a log had me laughing out loud!” – Marty Dearie, giant panda keeper
“Bao Bao often climbs the trees in her yard and peeks over the fence to see what keepers are doing. She seems to want to know what’s going on!” – Laurie Thompson, assistant curator of giant pandas
“On Christmas Eve in 2014, Bao Bao climbed a tree and did not come down when called, so I stayed late. I expected that I would have to stay well into the next day, but just before midnight Bao Bao made her way down the tree and into the Panda House. It was our own Christmas miracle.” – Shellie Pick, Asia Trail keeper
“Bao Bao is so active and silly when no one is watching. In the middle of the night, she plays wildly—jumping up and down, running around, throwing her toys and dragging bamboo around her enclosure. It’s a whole other side of her that she seems to keep to herself.” – Stacey Tabellario, Asia Trail keeper
Tune in Feb. 16 through 21 for a series of online and onsite events celebrating Bao Bao. View the full schedule of events.