Xiao Liwu, pronounced "sshyow lee woo", stepped into the outside habitat Wednesday morning to give many zoo employees and members of the media their first glimpse of the five-month-old cub. The big day was Thursday however, as more than 200 people packed themselves around the habitat to witness Xiao Liwu official public debut.
Seeing such a sight is rare. According to a zoo press release
, there are only 1,600 giant pandas believed to exist in the wild, and only 12 giant pandas in captivity in the United States.
Affectionately known as Mr. Wu to the zoo staff, the black and white ball of fluffy cuteness has accompanied his mother into the north exhibit for the past few weeks, allowing him the opportunity to adjust to the new surroundings prior to making his debut.
Xiao Liwu has practiced his climbing skills during the outings, becoming adept at getting up the climbing structure, while still trying to master the best way to get back down. According to the zoo's blog
, he has reminded the zoo staff that "panda babies are made to bounce."
Xiao Liwu quickly found his favorite place to nap, a moat lined with straw designed to help cushion him in the event of a fall. During his debut on Thursday, Xiao Liwu spent a good bit of his time burrowing into a cozy straw. Christina Simmons, the zoo's spokeswoman, told Yahoo
"He kind of tumbles into it, which is just adorable. He's still building up strength in his legs."
Xiao Liwu was born on July 29, 2012. He did not receive his name however until 107 days after his birth, following the Chinese custom of waiting at least 100 days before naming a baby. His name means "Little Gift" in Mandarin.
Along with his 3-year-old brother, Yun Zi, and his mother, Bai Yun, Xiao Liwu is on research loan from China.
Xiao Liwu will be on public display from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the first few weeks. Once he becomes more comfortable with large crowds, viewing hours will be extended.