The birth of a giant panda has been known to cause heightened excitement the world over. As an endangered species, the panda population has declined due to habitat fragmentation and poaching in the wild, as well as experiencing low birth rate and high infant fatalities in captivity.
Rock Star Status
So when there is a birth of a new cub at one of the four zoos located in the United States — it’s of consequence. Such was the case when Bei Bei [pronounced ‘bay bay’] was born at the Smithsonian National Zoo on August 22, 2015.
“There is something very special about giant pandas,” said Pamela Baker-Masson, director of communications for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, who explained the public’s infatuation with the 25-pound cub at the time of his birth. “They are extremely rare. Their natural habitat is in China."
Appropriate for a panda of such stature, Bei Bei was named by first lady Michelle Obama and Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan. His auspicious name means “precious treasure,” and was announced for the first time when both first ladies arrived at the zoo, one month after his birth.
According to the zoo authorities, both women traveled to the Panda House "to commemorate over four decades of scientific collaboration between the United States and China around giant panda conservation.”
Bei Bei’s mother is Mei Xiang [“beautiful fragrance,”] and he was fathered by artificial insemination by Tian Tian [“more and more.”] Today Bei Bei resides with his father, and they are both separated from the mother. Apparently giant pandas are solitary creatures who are also known to live apart in the wild.
On November 25, Bei Bei underwent emergency bowel obstruction, where veterinarians removed a “dense, lemon-sized mass of bamboo.” The blockage was discovered at the top of his small intestine during an ultrasound prior to the surgery.
Apparently zoo officials became concerned when the toddler panda started showing signs of stomach discomfort after vomiting the day before [no comment on whether or not his Thanksgiving dinner repast included more than just bamboo?]
The patient is now in recovering mode. First offered just water and liquids, he will soon transition to soft foods, like pears, leaf-eater biscuits, and sweet potatoes, which zoo officials previously said was one of his favorite foods.
“Bei Bei’s prognosis is very good,” director Dennis Kelly said. “The challenge will be for our team to monitor him safely, and that requires his cooperation.”
To keep abreast of the latest news regarding Bei Bei’s prognosis, the zoo said it will post daily updates pertaining to Bei Bei’s recovery on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s Facebook account and other social media channels. Currently well wishing tweets on Twitter alone are flooding the Twittersphere in the hundreds of thousands.
Fellow readers, please feel free to send your get-well wishes as well. Bei Bei could use some cheering up!