Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu goes on public display - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu goes on public display

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SAN 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 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 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.

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