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Bei Bei, the National Zoo’s tiniest bundle of “aww,” made his first official media appearance this morning ahead of his January debut to the public.
At almost four months old, Bei Bei weighs more than 17 pounds and looks exactly like the panda cubs in your dreams. Much like a dignitary greeting his guests, Bei Bei made two passes down the press line—thankfully (for him), he was separated from the panda-hungry press mob by very thick glass—in the arms of keeper Juan Rodriguez. The zoo is preparing Bei Bei for his public debut by putting him in front of small groups of people like family members of staff. “In general, they’re a very laid back and relaxed species,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who’s been a keeper at the National Zoo for the past five years, said Bei Bei, like all pandas, has his own personality. For example, Bei Bei is cool with being around people when he wakes up but “at some point he just wants either more food… or to be on his own,” Rodriguez said.
“That’s Bei Bei. He’s very unique like that.”
Bei Bei will meet Friends of the National Zoo members between Jan. 8 and 15. His public debut is set for Jan. 16.
Photos by Darrow Montgomery