Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu to make public debut Thursday - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu to make public debut Thursday

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Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo. Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Just two more days before the public gets to meet the giant panda cub born at the San Diego Zoo last summer.

Starting Thursday, the 16-pound cub will be viewable in an outdoor exhibit area from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. daily, according to zoo officials.

Since being born July 29, Xiao Liwu has been visible to the public only via the zoo's Panda Cam and on occasional videos produced during his veterinary exams.

The name of the cub translates in English to "Little Gift" and is pronounced shee'ou Lee Woo.

Xiao Liwu has only recently started going outside, accompanied by his mother, Bai Yun, who has birthed a total of six cubs since arriving at the zoo from China in 1996. She was 21 years old when Xiao Liwu was born, making Bai Yun the oldest giant panda known to give birth.

Zoo officials warned that Bai Yun determines the cub's visibility and viewing opportunities may be short or intermittent.

The giant pandas at the zoo are on loan from the Chinese government, which has the option of calling the black-and-white bears back to their native country after they reach age 3. Only the newest cub and Yun Zi, who turned 3 in August, remain at the San Diego Zoo among Bai Yun's six offspring.

The local zoo is one of four in the U.S. that participate in the loan program. For a hefty fee to China, the zoos get to study the critically endangered species up close and help with breeding. At the same time, the pandas make for highly popular attractions.

Only around 1,600 pandas are believed to be left in the wild in China, in part because of deforestation and the expansion of farming. The bamboo-eating panda has lost much of its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China to roads and railroads, according to the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund.

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