American-born giant panda Bao Bao made her first appearance Friday before the public in southwestern China following her move there from Washington, DC Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo in Washington to pandas on loan from China. Under the standard loan agreement, such panda cubs must be returned to China before they are 4 years old, the earliest age at which they might begin breeding.
The 3-year-old Bao Bao explored her spacious new enclosure at the panda breeding base in the city of Dujiangyan, which features both indoor and outdoor play areas. Keepers have been helping her adapt to local bamboo and Chinese steamed bread made from corn, soybeans, rice and eggs. She is the 11th panda to be born overseas and returned to China.
Bao Bao, whose name means “precious” or “treasure,” underwent a monthlong quarantine at the Dujiangyan base, where keepers monitored her activities and health by checking her blood and feces. Because she does not understand commands in Chinese, she is being looked after for a time by an English-speaking keeper.
Giant pandas, China’s unofficial national mascot, live mainly in the mountains of Sichuan, with some also found in neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. They have long been considered one of the world’s most endangered animals, with an estimated 1,864 living in the wild and 200 in captivity.