National Zoo Will Extend Hours for Panda Cub’s Debut

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Bao Bao. (Photo credit: Abby Wood, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Bao Bao. (Photo credit: Abby Wood, Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The National Zoo is extending its hours for the giant panda house this weekend as panda cub Bao Bao makes her public debut.

Saturday is the first chance for the public to see the 5-month-old cub. The zoo says the panda house will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Visitors will be allowed into the building in small groups to avoid overcrowding.

Beginning next Tuesday, the panda house will be open to zoo members at 8 a.m. before it opens to the general public at 10 a.m.

The zoo says the amount of time Bao Bao and panda mother Mei Xiang will be on exhibit each day depends on their behavior. They will have access to their private den if they choose.

According to a recent blog post on the National Zoo’s website, Bao Bao’s coordination and climbing abilities are improving. She now spends more time exploring her enclosures under mom’s supervision that she used to.

“It won’t be long now until Bao Bao begins exploring the great outdoors as well, and that’s when all of the fun and extreme panda cub cuteness will really begin!,” the blog says.

Bao Bao, who weighed just 4.8 ounces when she was born in August, was clocking in at a hefty 13.2 pounds in mid-December.

Mei Xiang has given birth to three live cubs. Tai Shan, the only one before Bao Bao to survive for more than a few days, was born in 2005. He now lives in China. A week-old cub died in September 2012. Mei Xiang delivered a stillborn cub born shortly after Bao Bao was born.

In other panda news, the National Zoo joined Instagram this week. Their first act was to post an Instagram video (see below) of baby Bao Bao. The zoo also announced that Instagram users can enter for a chance to win special access to the David M. Rubenstein Giant Panda Habitat on Feb. 1. Winners will be able to see Bao Bao and ask her team of panda keepers and biologists questions. To enter the contest, click here.

(TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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