PHOTOS: Bao Bao Through the Years

We have just a few more days to spend time with Bao Bao at the National Zoo before she moves to China. Here's a look back at this adorable giant panda through the years.

26 photos
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Can you believe Bao Bao was ever this teeny? It was a huge, nervewracking event when this little girl made her way into the world. She would become the National Zoo's first surviving panda cub in a long eight years -- and just the zoo's second surviving cub ever. Just a year before, another cub died within its first week of life.
Bao Bao made her grand arrival on the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2013. She was healthy, but her female twin was stillborn, zookeepers said. But keepers quickly checked the surviving little cub's vital signs, which were strong. Bao Bao -- who of course didn't have her name yet -- weighed 137 grams (4.8 ounces), had good heart and lung sounds, and good signs for intestinal function. Mama Mei Xiang had been on a 24-hour pregnancy watch in the weeks leading up to the birth, after she began cradling her toys, licking her body and "nesting."
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Panda cubs are born nearly hairless, but within just a month of her birth, the cub was already donning her black-and-white markings.
National Zoo
Bao Bao underwent her first comprehensive vet exam in September 2013, weighing in at almost two pounds, vets said.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Bao Bao is the daughter of Tian Tian, the zoo's male panda. Mei Xiang had been artificially inseminated twice on March 30 after failing to breed naturally with Tian Tian. Zoo officials say she was inseminated with fresh and previously frozen semen from both Tian Tian and Gao Gao, a panda at the San Diego Zoo.
Abby Wood; Smithsonian's National Zoo
Unscientific, but the plastic storage bin phase is hands-down the best phase of panda development.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
There was a blackout on panda news during the 2013 government shutdown, but the zoo was able to provide new updates just hours after the shutdown ended. The cub, by then eight weeks old, weighed in at more than five pounds, and her eyes had partially opened.
By mid-October 2013, she weighed in at 5 pounds.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Here's Bao Bao in November 2013. She clearly was not taking anyone's nonsense.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Toys can be pretty tasty.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Once Bao Bao began playing outside, the cute photo ops multiplied exponentially.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
See what we mean?
Smithsonian's National Zoo
For Bao Bao's first birthday, the National Zoo held a traditional Chinese ceremony to predict her future. Three posters painted with symbols were hung with honey treats under each. The symbols were peaches (longevity), bamboo (good health), and pomegranates (fertility).

nBao Bao chose the peaches first, which, according to the ceremony, means she will live a long life. One other thing was for sure: Her future also contained cake. Well, "cake."
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Bao Bao got to enjoy a tiered "cake" made of frozen diluted apple juice and dyed varying shades of pink with beet juice. Frozen between the tiers were apple and pear slices, some of pandas’ favorite foods. The cake was decorated with flowers carved from carrots and sweet potatoes.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Clearly, it was a wild party.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Some highlights of Bao Bao's first year: the time she slurped down a frozen fruitsicle, her first foray into the outside world and the video that launched a thousand YouTube windows: Bao Bao loudly protesting as her tail was measured by zookeepers.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Striking a pose in August 2014, the month she turned 1.
It was a harrowing holiday in 2014: Bao Bao spent most of Christmas Eve up in a tree after apparently touching a "hot wire" in her enclosure and getting scared (and scaring pretty much everyone in the D.C. area). She spent more than 24 hours in the tree starting the night of Dec. 23. Bao Bao's doting mom, Mei Xiang, also spent the night outdoors, waiting underneath the tree and keeping watch. Keepers said she was a little concerned. Bao Bao finally came down late on Christmas Eve.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
What's black and white and black and white and black and white? A panda rolling down a hill on a snow day, of course!
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Is this panda photogenic or what?
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Enjoying a sunny day at the zoo.
National Zoo
Bao Bao celebrated her 2nd birthday in August 2015 with a frozen "cake," but she would also have been eligible to receive one of those "I'm a big sister!" shirts. Mama Mei Xiang had given birth to twin cubs just a day earlier. (One later died; the surviving cub is Bao's little brother, Bei Bei.)
Smithsonian's National Zoo
Bao Bao munched leaves while out playing in the snow ahead of the Blizzard of 2016.
Smithsonian's National Zoo
After the blizzard, Bao Bao sat in the snow, enjoying the sunlight (and especially enjoying a yummy piece of sugarcane).
Skip Brown and Kyra Zemanick, Smithsonian's National Zoo
When Bao Bao turned 3 in August 2016, we knew a "goodbye" was on the horizon.... Pandas born in the U.S. generally return to China by age 4. Bao Bao's leaving a few months early because keepers say it's more comfortable for pandas to travel during cool weather.
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