WASHINGTON -- Bao Bao, the giant panda cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, is getting used to seeing fans outside her panda house enclosure as she prepares for her public debut this month.
Bao Bao (pronounced bow-bow) had a tryout last Monday in front of the media. After waking up in her exhibit around 8 a.m., she spent the morning crawling, climbing, following mother Mei Xiang (may-shong) and poking her head over rocks to a chorus of camera clicks.
For the most part, Bao Bao is oblivious to all the commotion but is aware that people are around, panda curator Brandie Smith said.
"She's got a great disposition. She doesn't even seem to notice the folks who are watching her, her adoring public," Smith said. "Her focus is mostly on Mom right now."
Bao Bao will make her public debut Jan. 18, and may be visible inside or outside, depending on the weather and her mother's choices for any given day.
By the time she goes on public display, Bao Bao will be nearly 5 months old. She's still a baby, zookeepers said. She sleeps about half the day and plays while she's awake, rolling and tumbling on her head, gnawing on bamboo and poking at her mother.
That routine will continue when people are allowed to stream through the panda house. Smith said they won't make Bao Bao or her mother do anything they don't want to do. They will bring her out into the enclosure for viewing, conduct some training sessions with her and sometimes weigh her in public view.