Animal Rights

Washington Zoo's Giant Panda Cub To Make Debut In January

Panda keeper Juan Rodriguez prepares to weigh 3-month-old giant panda cub Bei Bei. Photo from the Smithsonian's National Zoo via Reuters

The National Zoo's fast-growing new giant panda cub will make his first public appearance on Jan. 16, the U.S. zoo said on Tuesday.

The cub, Bei Bei, was born in August to the zoo's Mei Xiang, one of the top tourist draws in the U.S. capital. He can crawl and sometimes walk on his own, the zoo said in a statement.

Bei Bei weighs 12.5 pounds, up from about 5 ounces three months ago. "He is larger than both his older siblings Bao Bao and Tai Shan were at the same age," the statement said.

A second cub born with Bei Bei died shortly after birth. They were sired by Tian Tian, the zoo's male giant panda, using artificial insemination.

Their birth captured international attention since giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species.

Giant pandas are native to China and have a very low reproductive rate, especially in captivity. There are about 300 giant pandas in captivity and some 1,600 in the wild.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott)

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