Baby Panda Makes Public Debut
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ The first giant panda born in the United States by artificial insemination made her public debut Friday _ and the 5-month-old slept right through it.
Since her birth in August, zoo officials have sheltered Hua Mei and her mother, Bai Yun, from zoo visitors to ensure they would bond without distraction.
``Daddy, I can’t see it!″ cried 2 1/2-year-old Jacob Herstein, who was among the thousands of visitors Friday at the reopened panda exhibit.
``I want to go up there,″ he said, pointing to the tree branch where Hua Mei was napping, with only her hindquarters visible.
The cub is the first giant panda born in the United States by artificial insemination and the first to survive past four days. Four others were born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., but they all died.
Bai Yun and the cub’s father, Shi Shi, arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1996 on a 12-year research loan from their native China. Scientists hope research on breeding of captive pandas can help sustain the population in the wild, which is estimated to be about 1,000.
Don Lindburg, leader of the zoo’s panda team, said the staff has been ``humbled″ by watching a pinkish, four-ounce baby grow to a black-and-white, 22-pound bundle.
``She’s a healthy, energetic cub,″ he said. ``There’s a huge luck factor in that.″