Xiao Liwu, the nearly 6-month-old panda cub, accompanied by his watchful mom, will make brief public appearances starting Thursday in a special habitat area at the San Diego Zoo.
Because the cub has started exploring an outdoor habitat area with his mother, Bai Yun, zoo officials believe the duo is now comfortable with public viewing.
Just how visible the 16-pound cub will be, however, will depend on the comfort level of his mother, meaning there will be times when the public won't be able to catch a glimpse of the young panda, advise zoo officials.
The special viewing area has a separate entrance from the general giant panda exhibit. It is around the corner to the north. It is expected to be open to visitors daily from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
"Right now, that's when mom and baby have chosen to be out in that area," said zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons. "There are areas where you can see them, but mom is protective so she may decide to move the baby. It depends on where they want to be."
Visitors to the zoo can expect to see the cub playing, following his mother around and doing some climbing. "He's still a little wobbly," Simmons said.
Xiao Liwu is the sixth giant panda born at the zoo and one of four pandas currently residing there. The others are mother Bai Yun, father Gao Gao, and Yun Zi, the son of Bai Yun and Gao Gao. All other cubs born at the zoo have been returned to a research facility in China, which typically makes a decision on whether to have the young pandas sent back after they turn 3.
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Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo / U-T San Diego