As your blog moderator, I felt it was my duty to visit the panda exhibit this morning to see how Yun Zi handled his public debut…. Oh, who am I kidding? I went to see the little guy this morning because I wanted to!! I was not disappointed.
When I first arrived, I used my status (or rather, my name badge) to peek in on Yun Zi from the exhibit’s exit so I wouldn’t have to stand in the somewhat long line. He was sound asleep on the small hammock, and Bai Yun was doing the same in some branches just above. Oh well, I thought, that’s to be expected. After all, I’ve been the one warning folks that panda cubs do a lot of sleeping! I did some Zoo errands and came back at 10:30 a.m., again peeking in through the exit. Staff told me the cub had just woken up and was playing. OMG—this is perfect! I quickly got into the ever-growing queue of Zoo visitors so I could get a full view of the little guy.
Our visitor assistance officers and panda narrator Kay did a great job of keeping the line moving so all could have a turn to view the oh-so-cute cubbie. We slowly made our way into the exhibit’s viewing area, and there he was, big as life, playing! Yes, playing with his mother! It’s one thing to view a panda cub on Panda Cam, but when I saw him “in person,” my eyes got a little teary. I noticed he had the same effect on Jessica, one of the panda fans I met while in line. What a thrill to watch him wrestle with Mom and strut his stuff! Did he seem bothered by all the people? No. Did he even seem to notice us? No. Did we care that he didn’t notice us? No. Did he look absolutely adorable? YES!
When our turn was over, I looked around to see the reactions of those who had been in line with me, and this was the neatest thing—the looks of sheer joy on their faces! Panda fans Jennifer, Jessica, Liz, Barbara, and Glen described the experience as “awesome,” “overwhelming,” and “very emotional.” Jennifer said Yun Zi had melted her heart into a big mush ball. Jessica declared it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Liz thought the whole viewing experience was “perfect.” I think long-time Zoo member Barbara summed it up best when she said, “We are so lucky to have this wonderful facility that so beautifully shows the different stages in a panda’s life. Now, I’m off to see his big sisters!”
Debbie Andreen is an associate editor for the San Diego Zoo.