DIEGO (CNS) - A little threatening
weather didn't stop the giant panda cub at the San Diego Zoo from going on
public exhibition for the first time Thursday.
After cautions from zoo officials
that his mother, Bai Yun, might be a little protective at first and limit
viewings of Xiao Liwu, the 5-month-old cub spent the entire allotted two hours
outside, Zoo and Safari Park Ambassador Rick Schwartz said.
The cub will be on display daily
from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in a section of the giant panda exhibit that he
recently has been frequenting.
"We expect he'll probably be
out the entire two hours from here on out," Schwartz told said. "Bai Yun is comfortable with the crowds."
Schwartz estimated that around 400
people visited the panda exhibit during the first display period but warned
that it will be much busier this weekend. He suggested that those who want a
live glimpse of Xiao Liwu, which translates in English to "Little
Gift," to arrive at or even before the zoo's 9 a.m. scheduled opening on
Saturday and Sunday.
Xiao Liwu spent most of his two
hours in a tree, according to Schwartz, who said he was active at first then,
"as pandas do," fell asleep.
Until now, he's only been seen on
the zoo's panda webcam and zoo-produced videos.
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
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 about 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.
Friday, May 24 2013 6:03 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:03:25 GMT
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