From newborn Bao Bao’s hearty squeal to Xiao Qi Ji’s belly-slide in the snow, the Giant Panda Cam, sponsored by Chase, has given people around the globe a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the bears that call the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute home. To celebrate 50 years of giant panda care, collaboration and conservation, we’ve curated a collection of cute Cam moments from the past decade that connected viewers with nature, sparked pure panda joy and broke the internet.
Aug. 23, 2013 | Bao Bao is Born
Witnessing a conservation success as rare as a giant panda birth — in real time, no less — makes the joyous event all the more special. In summer 2013, lucky Giant Panda Cam viewers watched Mei Xiang give birth to a bouncing baby Bao Bao. The cub’s first on-screen appearance happened in the blink of an eye, but her loud squeals confirmed that the “precious treasure” had arrived! Mother Mei Xiang gently picked up little Bao Bao — who was no bigger than a stick of butter — and immediately began cradling and caring for her.
Sept. 12, 2013 | A Sleepy Bao Bao
Giant panda moms spend most of their time cradling their cub in its first weeks of life. When a cub is 3 weeks old, as Bao Bao is here, it weighs about 1.5 pounds. In this video, Bao Bao is tucked between Mei Xiang’s arm and her chin. Thanks to the Giant Panda Cam, viewers could clearly see the cub as she snuggled with mom and gave an unbearably cute yawn.
Jan. 12, 2014 | Bao Bao Bites Her Foot
While entertaining herself in the den, 4.5-month-old Bao Bao took a nibble of her rear paw. Young panda cubs explore the world with their mouths. Often, they initiate play sessions with a few not-so-ferocious bites. They chomp on everything from their paws and enrichment toys to Mei Xiang’s ears!
Sept. 25, 2015 | Bei Bei Choo
The Giant Panda Cam offers a glimpse into the quieter moments of a day in the life of these beloved bears. Sometimes, it’s these small moments that spark the most joy — like the time Bei Bei’s peaceful slumber was briefly interrupted by a surprising sneeze!
Nov. 9, 2015 | Bei Bei’s First Steps
The first years of a giant panda’s life are a whirlwind of new experiences. Under mother Mei Xiang’s watchful eye, 2.5-month-old Bei Bei took his first steps. It was one small step for panda … one adorably wobbly moment for all of us!
Bei Bei’s Famous Falls
Once a giant panda cub has mastered walking, they start practicing their climbing skills. As they explore their surroundings and reach new heights, panda cubs may take a tumble. Luckily, they are physically robust and have thick, dense fur to cushion the landing. As Bei Bei grew, we watched him tumble out of many trees, only to get right back up and try again.
Jan. 31, 2021 | Panda Parents Sled in the Snow
As snow blanketed the Washington, D.C. region, the Smithsonian's National Zoo's animals woke up to a winter wonderland. For giant panda parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the snow day brought slides, somersaults and pure panda joy.
May 9, 2021 | Like Mother, Like Son
At 8.5 months old, Xiao Qi Ji branched out into new places to play! He climbed up a tree while Mei Xiang sat near the base. While he was in the canopy, he dropped some small branches and twigs onto his mother below. She seemed to relish his mischievous play because she picked up the branches and scent-anointed with them!
Sep. 16, 2021 | A Splashing Good Time
While keepers were cleaning the outdoor patio, curious 1-year-old Xiao Qi Ji jumped in the hose spray and had a splashing good time! Just like his parents, Xiao Qi Ji seems to enjoy playing in water, though each bear has his or her own unique style. In his update, keeper Marty Dearie remarked that the way Xiao Qi Ji interacted with the hose spray was similar to the way his older brother, Bei Bei, used to play. However, licking the spray — as he did Sept. 16 — is a trait that is unique to Xiao Qi Ji!
Jan. 3, 2022 | Snow Day for Xiao Qi Ji
There’s something magical about watching giant pandas play in the snow. On Jan. 3, Washington D.C. experienced its first snow storm of 2022. Although Xiao Qi Ji was unsure of what to think of the snow in 2021, there was no denying his excitement about it this time around. He had a lot of fun rolling around, wrestling with Mei Xiang and even belly-sliding in the snow!
This story appears in the April 2022 issue of National Zoo News. Read previous panda updates here. On April 16, the Zoo will celebrate an enormous milestone — the 50th anniversary of its giant panda program! Join in the “Pandaversary” festivities, sponsored by Boeing, over the coming weeks and months.