For 16 days, the doors to the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo were closed to the public—and with them, the animal cameras that provided a video stream of the Zoo animal’s activities for curious viewers. As news of the animal cameras demise went viral, bereaved watchers took to the internet to express their frustrations, with universal lamentions. “This just got REAL,” tweeted the Daily Beast, while Ed Henry, Fox News’ White House correspondent, proclaimed that the panda cam shutdown “is where we draw the line.” Time even created its own panda cam to keep panda enthusiast calm while waiting out the shutdown.
Good news for panda enthusiasts. Beginning Thursday morning, the Zoo’s technical staff began the process of bringing the cameras back online, beginning with the overwhelmingly popular panda cam. While the Zoo grounds won’t reopen to the public until Friday morning, Zoo lovers can rest assured knowing that their favorite animals are now only a click away.
In the days since the panda cam went dark, the Zoo’s new panda cub has gone through some significant milestones. The most apparent is her size: since her last veterinary appointment on September 26, she’s grown from 3.07 pounds to a whopping 5 pounds. The cub has also begun to open her eyes, opening the right one three days after the panda cam went down, on October 4. Both of the cub’s ears are also fully open, and she now responds to sounds she hears inside the panda house.
Mei Xiang, the cub’s mother, has also been active while the panda cam has been down. Mei is leaving the cub for longer periods of time, to eat and venture outside. Her appetite has increased, as keepers note that she is now eating all of the leaf-eater biscuits and produce she is offered, as well as 60 percent of her bamboo. On October 12, Mei even chose to participate in a training session with keepers in the outdoor area. While mom is away, the cub keeps herself busy by scooting around the indoor area, though keepers note that the cub doesn’t manage to get very far—yet. Keepers estimate that by the time the cub is four months old, she will be strong enough to walk on her own. For now, she can push herself up on her front two legs, or right herself if she is stuck on her back.
Anxious panda cam viewers should note that a large amount of traffic when the cams first return could overwhelm the stream, causing viewing problems. If this happens to you, don’t panic—simply take a deep breath and refresh the page, which you’ll need to do if you plan on watching the panda cam for more than 15 minutes anyway.