The Smithsonian National Zoo’s giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji explored his outdoor habitat for the first time as he is about to turn six months old.
The cub, whose name means “little miracle” in Mandarin Chinese, accompanied his mother, Mei Xiang, into their outdoor habitat at around 7:30 am on Tuesday, February 16, according to a statement from the Zoo.
Mei Xiang was the first one to go out after zookeepers opened the door that separates the panda family’s indoor and outdoor habitats. The baby panda did not initially follow his mother, who immediately started eating a pile of bamboo outside.
Keepers then closed the door to the yard and walked into the den to call Xiao Qi Ji to draw his attention. He followed them onto the patio in between the indoor and outdoor enclosures. After Mei Xiang came over and joined his son on the patio for a few minutes, the cub decided to follow her to the outside area.
“Much like his siblings Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei were during their first outings, Xiao Qi Ji was cautious yet curious. Mostly, he stayed on the sidewalk at the back of the yard,” the Zoo said.
“Mei Xiang continued to calmly eat while her son ventured onto the grass and pawed at one of their enrichment toys. He walked along the wall of the panda house, sniffed the doors and gates and took in all the new sights and smells. Xiao Qi Ji peeked into the ‘howdy’ window that looks into his father Tian Tian’s yard. He also tested out his climbing skills on the mesh that separates the keeper area from the bears’ yard, but he didn’t get far before he lost his grip and dropped just a few inches to the ground below,” added the statement, noting that even though the cub stayed close to his “home base,” his first wandering outside was “successful.”
The panda cub was born on August 21, 2020 at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, after his mother Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated in March 2020 by a team of reproductive scientists at the Zoo.
The Zoo is temporarily closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But updates on Xiao Qi Ji can be followed through the Zoo’s website, on social media under the hashtags #PandaStory and #PandaCubdates and via the Giant Panda e-newsletter.