National Zoo Prepares Panda Cub for Debut

The National Zoo's panda cub is getting ready for her close up. 

Bao Bao will make her public debut later this month, but Monday, she had a test run with the media.

The nearly 5-month-old cub spent the morning climbing on rocks and following her mother, Mei Xiang, around the indoor exhibit.

"She's gone from kind of crawling to walking, and she's so playful, so energetic. She's such a great little girl," said senior curator Brandie Smith.

Curators say Bao Bao has turned out to be a calm and relaxed panda cub, more subdued than older brother Tai Shan.

"Tai Shan was a little more vocal when we did things like weigh him, where she seems kind of relaxed about it,'' Smith said. "She's like her dad. Tian Tian is very relaxed and kind of goes with the flow. So I'm thinking she got that from him.''

Once the size of a stick of butter, Bao Bao, who was born unexpectedly Aug. 23, now weighs nearly 17 pounds.

Smith added, "She's great. She's really healthy...She continues to grow really well."

Bao Bao makes her public debut on Jan. 18. Curators say she may be visible inside or outside, depending on the day. The amount of time Bao Bao and her mom, Mei Xiang, will be on exhibit will depend on their behavior each day, the zoo said last month.

If you're a members of the Friends of the National Zoo, you'll get the chance to see her even earlier, at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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