Bao Bao is settling comfortably into her new home in China, her keeper from the National Zoo said Thursday.
Smithsonian National Zoo giant panda keeper Marty Dearie -- who flew to China with Bao Bao -- said the panda immediately walked into her new enclosure at the Dujiangyan panda base in China.
Bao Bao then explored her new home and was very relaxed, Dearie said in a statement.
“Bao Bao also participated in training sessions and performed behaviors that we taught her over the last few years without missing a beat,” Dearie said. “Our Chinese colleagues use very similar, or the same, body gestures to communicate to pandas what we need them to do.”
Dearie said Bao Bao quickly learned the verbal Chinese cutes and coordinating hand signals and body gestures.
Dearie stayed at Dujiangyan for three days with Bao Bao as a precaution, but said Bao Bao settled in pretty quickly. Dearie said when she left to head back home to the United States, Bao Bao “seemed very comfortable” and preferred to interact with her new keeper.
“True to her character, Bao Bao was very independent and began taking food from her new keeper immediately,” Dearie said.
Bao Bao’s diet in China will be very similar to her diet at the National Zoo, but will have more variety of bamboo to munch on. She took a liking to her new snacks right away.
Bao Bao even had a willingness to broaden her diet, to the surprise of Dearie.
“She surprised me when she ate a carrot offered by her keeper,” Dearie said in Thursday’s statement. “Carrots were always one of the diet items she was less enthusiastic about when she lived at our zoo.”
However, Bao Bao did not seem to like Dujiangyan's specially-made panda bread. Dearie said she will likely acquire taste for it in time.
The 4-year-old giant panda flew on the FedEx Panda Express for a 16-hour direct flight in February. Dearie said she slept and ate throughout her flight.
The National Zoo bid farewell to Bao Bao because U.S. zoos loan pandas from China, and all pandas born in the U.S. must return to China by 4 years-old.
The National Zoo now has three pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Bei Bei. Dearie said Bei Bei is weaning off of his mother, Mei Xiang, and is transitioning to live independently.