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“He spends his days now exploring his indoor enclave,” said Lisa Stevens, the zoo’s assistant curator for pandas. “He likes to do what he wants to do. He’s behaving like a typical bear cub.”
Tai Shan also showed his playful side by nipping at the hands of a keeper who carried him into the den. Zoo officials said he has become more independent and assertive in recent weeks and will, at times, bark at keepers or his mother, Mei Xiang, when being picked up.
“If we do something he doesn’t like, he barks,” said Nicole Meese, the zoo’s giant pandas and primates keeper who works with Tai Shan. “We’ve also seen him chase keepers around.”
Tai Shan was born to 7-year-old Mei Xiang and 8-year-old Tian Tian after zoo scientists artificially inseminated Mei Xiang in March.
The cub has been considered a remarkable success story because none of the five cubs, born from 1983 to 1989, at the zoo survived more than four days.
The cub, who will be 5 months old on Dec. 9, has passed his checkups with flying colors and has received all of his vaccinations, for now. Zoo officials said he is still nursing and likely will begin eating bamboo at 6 months.
Yesterday’s viewing preceded Tai Shan’s public debut, which is scheduled to begin next week.
Last week, the zoo on its Web site distributed free tickets on a first-come, first-served basis for designated viewings, which begin Dec. 8 and end Jan. 2.
About 13,000 tickets were snatched up in a little more than two hours, and some later appeared on EBay with asking prices ranging from $199 for two to $500 for six.
Zoo officials then announced that people could use the tickets only if they can prove they reserved them themselves.
Those who got the tickets had to give their names, which were printed on the tickets. Zoo officials said that if the name on the ticket doesn’t match a person’s identification, they will be turned away.
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