The most important news ever: New baby panda Bao Bao makes her public debut

The most important news ever: New baby panda Bao Bao makes her public debut

Bao Bao, whose name means”treasure,” sturggles to climb over the rock structure in her den. She had been sleeping in a tub under the rock overhang.

By Elizabeth Campbell, Editor-in-Chief

Baby panda Bao Bao stumbles her way to the top of the rocks and stretches up on her hind legs only to trip and flip backward on the ground. She’s stunned for only a second before rolling on to her back and flashing the crowd an adorable smile.

Scenes like this have been quite common ever since the new baby panda, Bao Bao, made her public debut Jan. 18 at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

“This is amazing,” Smithsonian Zoo employee Juan Carlos Ocana said. “Having a baby here is a miracle.”

Since giant pandas are only fertile for a few days out of the year, the chance of a panda getting pregnant is very low, which is what makes Bao Bao so special. She was born Aug. 23 to parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, who gained popularity when they had son Tai Shan in 2005.

“I love Bao Bao in that we get to watch her grow up,” senior Leslie Sterling said. “It’s sad that we’re going to have to say goodbye to her like Tai Shan, but it’s worth it for now.”

Since Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are both on loan from China, their offspring must eventually be returned to China.

“The keepers decide, but it’s around four years,” Ocana said. “It depends on health, and it depends on government relations.”

Since their time window is limited, many students are taking this chance to visit Bao Bao.

According to junior Micheal Baitty, visiting Bao Bao was “very enjoyable and interesting,” and he would recommend visiting her.

The zoo appreciates these visits as it has been using extensive social media updates and press to draw attention to Bao Bao and the rest of the animals.

“Everyone knows about the panda,” Sterling said. “I think she will bring more people to the zoo; people will appreciate other animals too and FONZ [Friends of the National Zoo] will gain a lot of new members.”

According to Ocana, it is not only her publicity and cuteness that helped Bao Bao rise to fame, but also the fact that since pandas are not natural hunters they are large, brightly colored and slow moving, making them easy for zoo visitors to see.

“She’s so adorable and cute, but she’s so different than the rest [of the animals],” Ocana said. “That’s why people fall in love with Bao Bao.”