Sunday, January 17, 2016

Visting Bei-Bei, Bao Bao's little brother

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but Ashley really likes giant panda bears. In 2014 when the National Zoo had Bao Bao on public display for the first time, we stood in a two hour line on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend to catch a glimpse of (wait for it) ... her shoulder.

It seems the National Zoo learned some lessons from that experience. She went on display to FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) members a week before she went on display to the public. I read in the Washington Post the plan was to allow groups of 50 at a time to come in and see Bei Bei, two years ago it was 80. Of course everyone wants to hover around Bei Bei, and not spread out to see all four pandas. 

Another big change for us was that Bei Bei was in a "play pen" near the window, which gave us a better chance to see him, though he still huddled in the corner, so we didn't really see all 22 pounds of him after all. 

After being able to see Bei Bei without a line, and be able to stay for as long as we wanted, Don said "that was the best money we ever spent." Though as part of the Smithsonian it is free to visit the National Zoo, it does cost $22 to park. Our level of membership includes half off parking. 

The weather was similar to our visit seeing Bao Bao -- upper 50s and sunny. We did get caught in a brief rain storm as the winds picked up around closing time.
Mei Xiang (mother)

While in the Giant Panda area we also saw the father (Tian Tian), his mother (Mei Xiang), and big sister (Bao Bao). Each are kept in their own spaces because panda bears are solitary in the wild.

Tian Tian (father)
The adults were active when we were there around 1:20 PM. Two-year-old Bao Bao was still outside playing.

The cutest moment we saw was when Mei Xiang went near Bei Bei. The woman next to me (a real Giant Panda Cam stalker) said she was there the day before and at about this time Mei Xiang nudged her cub awake. Rather than nudging the baby panda awake, she spotted another container with food in it and played with that instead. 

We wandered around the zoo for a little while. When we came back, Bao Bao was inside entertaining the crowd while eating lunch (something that annoyed Ashley the first year she went to Upper Canada Village). The giant pandas don't seem to care, just as long as they get treats.

We didn't cover any new ground at the zoo during our brief visit, in fact we saw even less animals than usual. As usual, we left with the mantra "next time we will get an earlier start." Hmm... not very likely given our track record. It is a 3+ hour drive to the zoo, and another 3+ hours home again. As much as we don't like being in the car, we do like the feeling of relaxation watching the giant pandas sleep, eat, and (on occasion) play.

This is the closest we got to a panda all day:


These were our best views of Bei Bei:

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