Keeper: Bao Bao Enjoying New Life in China

WASHINGTON — A keeper with the National Zoo said Bao Bao had a smooth trip to her new home in China, and is adjusting just fine to her new surroundings — she’s even learning Chinese, or the panda equivalent anyway.

The giant panda born at the National Zoo in 2013 and brought to Chengu, China, last month “ate and slept the entire way,” said keeper Marty Dearie in a statement released by the zoo Thursday. “All the weeks of acclimating her to her travel crate paid off.”

When her new keeper opened her travel crate at the Dujiangyan panda base, Bao Bao was out and exploring in about one minute.

“She immediately started exploring and was very relaxed,” Dearie said in the statement.

She began eating food from her new keeper, chowing down on bamboo right away (Dearie said she has more types of bamboo there than in D.C.) and even carrots, which Dearie said she wasn’t very in to at the National Zoo.

And Bao Bao very quickly picked up on the hand signals and gestures of her new keepers, including the Chinese words that go along with them. Dearie said she stayed on in Chengdu for three days in case Bao Bao needed to see a familiar face, but by the time she left, Bao Bao “preferred to interact with her new keeper, which is what I was hoping would happen.”

Dearie said Bao Bao “seemed very comfortable” when she left to return to D.C., and the keeper hopes we’ll be hearing about Bao Bao becoming a mother in a few years.

Meanwhile, at the National Zoo, Bao Bao’s little brother, Bei Bei, who was recently separated from mother Mei Xiang, is starting to settle in to independent life. Dearie said the two spend less time vocalizing to each other, which is normal under the circumstances, but both are doing just fine.

Dearie said that Mei Xiang has been “displaying some pre-estrus behaviors” over the last few days, including wandering, water play and what the keeper called “scent-anointing,” what one wants to think is the reaction of a proud mom celebrating a successfully emptied nest.

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