Wednesday, 27 August 2014 | MYT 5:00 PM

Bao Bao turns 1! Pandas of the world rejoice!

What’s cuter than a human toddler attacking cake on her first birthday? A panda doing the same thing!

A rambunctious panda bear cub celebrates a rare first birthday with a special cake and traditional Chinese gifts at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington on Aug 23. Bao Bao, a 20kg female, is only the second panda in the zoo’s history to live a full year, as the endangered species produce tiny and delicate offspring that are often unable to survive infancy, says zoo spokeswoman Devon Murphy.

The National Zoo has studied pandas since 1972, and has seen the birth of seven cubs. Most of the world’s 1,600 giant wild pandas live in bamboo forests in central China where their fate remains uncertain because of rampant habitat loss.

“Today, we are celebrating one of our biggest conservation successes,” Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, says in a statement. “It’s been amazing for us, our members and all of Washington, DC, to watch Bao Bao thrive and grow.”

Fit for a panda: Bao Bao's first birthday cake (above) is made of frozen apple juice and an assortment of her favourite fruits. Below, Bao Bao chooses "Long Life" during her zhuazhou ceremony.

Honouring the Chinese tradition of zhuazhou ("choosing the future") when a child turns one, the zoo caretakers laid out three posters fixed to bamboo poles marked with “Long Life”, “Many Cubs” and “Good Health”, and waited to see which one she would pick. According to tradition, the first item picked by the one-year-old will be his or her fate in life. Bao Bao picked “Long Life.”

For turning one, Bao Bao was treated to a tiered cake specially made from frozen apple juice, dyed shades of pink using beet juice, with apple and pear slices, some of her favourite foods, according to the zoo. The cake was decorated with flower shapes carved from carrots and sweet potatoes, and boasted a large “1” carved out of frozen juice on its top.

Despite being born on American soil, Bao Bao is already booked for a flight back to her homeland China when she turns four so she could be part of the breeding programme to boost panda numbers. For now, however, she’s just a goofy, life-loving panda whose antics can been seen live on the zoo’s “panda cam”. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Features , Animals , Bao Bao , panda , giant panda , panda bear , cub , birthday , cake , zhuazhou , Smithsonian National Zoo


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