Bei Bei the giant panda cub has proved that he is ready for his close-up, as he was proudly shown off to journalists on Wednesday, December 16.
This was the small cub’s media debut, involving a group of several dozens of reporters, and taking place one month before the adorable bear will be presented to visitors at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington.
Bei Bei was born on August 22, alongside his twin brother who unfortunately perished 4 days afterwards. Ever since the moment he emerged into the world, Bei Bei captured the attention of millions, as footage showing his daily adventures was streamed live, on a specially made Giant Panda Cam.
At his birth, Bei Bei was completely blind and hairless, looking like a tiny pink blob, but 4 months have passed since then, and the bear cub weighs around 17 and a half pounds, and is covered by luscious black and white fur, although his eyesight remains a little shabby for now.
The small bear is expected to become the star attraction at the Smithsonian National Zoo, and therefore live up to his name, which means “precious treasure”, and was chosen for him by Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s president Xi Jiping.
The first ladies had met in Washington so as to mark more than 40 years of partnership between the U.S. and China, in the field of giant panda research and preservation.
This species is extremely endangered, having been included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and having been offered maximum protection through the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Law adopted in 1988.
At the moment, just around 1,600 giant panda bears remain in the wild, and 300 others are held in captivity, especially in China.
Given the rarity of the species, the birth of Bei Bei was widely celebrated, especially since breeding among giant pandas is so difficult to accomplish in captivity, due to the fact that the female’s fertile window occurs on a single occasion, throughout the year.
Bei Bei’s father, Tian Tian has only been able to pass its genes via artificial insemination, having been unable to reproduce naturally.
Along with Mei Xang, his female companion, Tian Tian first fathered Tai Shan (a male) in July 2005, and then Bao Bao (a female) in August 2013.
Therefore, Bei Bei has two older siblings, but will be presented to the public front and center starting from January 16, 2016.
According to Brandie Smith, associate director at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, it is expected that thousands of visitors will flock to see the adorable bundle of fur with their own eyes, especially since the zoo charges no admission fees.
For now, Bei Bei, who has only had to spend time with his mother and handlers ever since his birth, is gradually introduced to a larger number of people, so as not to feel overwhelmed by the noise and commotion when he makes his first public appearance.
Bei Bei will remain in the U.S. until he turns 4, when he will be sent to China, to live in his natural habitat, since he is currently on lease, just like all the other giant pandas currently kept in the United States.
Image Source: Today Online