- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

It’s hard to believe the Washington, D.C., panda was the size of a stick of butter 4 years ago, but now the 200-pound bear celebrated his birthday on Thursday with his own cake and about 100 adoring fans.

At 8:30 a.m., Tai Shan enjoyed his “cake” — a frozen treat made of water, bamboo, shredded beets and beet juice.

Tai Shan, which is Chinese for “butterstick,” was the first panda cub to survive after birth at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the third to live after birth in captivity in the United States.

Tai Shan parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, were both donated to the National Zoo by China. The panda couple was provided to the National Zoo through a 10-year, $10-million “lease” program, according to the zoo. Because of this program, Tai Shan is technically property of China and could be required to return this year.

The giant panda’s page on the National Zoo’s Web site allows for visitors to leave birthday wishes for Tai Shan.

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