The National Zoo’s newest giant panda is set to have a first birthday party this weekend, and you’re invited.
The zoo is scheduled to give birthday boy Bei Bei and his family “panda-friendly frozen cakes” in their exhibit at 1 p.m. Saturday, according to a news release. His mom, Mei Xiang; his dad, Tian Tian; and his sister, Bao Bao, are expected to join the cub in eating the treats.
For humans, the zoo will have a limited supply of a cold, spicy Chinese dish called Dan Dan noodles available for free beginning at 11 a.m.
Bei Bei also is slated to participate in a Zhuazhou ceremony, a Chinese tradition for first birthday celebrations.
The zoo adds in its news release:
In a traditional ceremony, several symbolic objects are placed in front of the baby. The object that the baby chooses foretells something about his or her future. Bei Bei will have three banners with painted symbols placed in his yard. He or his mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) will choose one.
But only Friends of the National Zoo members will get to see the ritual in person. Everyone else can watch the rite on Facebook at 8 a.m. The zoo’s Facebook page also will have live video of the pandas with the birthday cakes.
Photo via Facebook/Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
While the rest of DC was busy dodging tornados and staying dry during Saturday’s derecho storm, I somehow found myself staking a “waterproof” tent into the saturated, muddy ground at the National Zoo.
That’s right. I was setting up camp for the night…. in the National Zoo. Just my husband and me spending time in nature with some of the world’s coolest animals (and an unexpected pack of eager Boy Scouts).
For those who seem a little surprised and confused on how one can sleep at the zoo, it’s through a program called Snore and Roar that Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) hosts during the summer months.
The overnight included a flashlight-guided tour of the zoo, a keeper-led tour of an exhibit area and other animal-loving activities throughout the evening and morning. (Beware of the “other animal-loving activities.” I was expecting some transcending animal interaction where I would make best friends with a monkey and be the next Jane Goodall; I wasn’t expecting to dissect an owl pellet.)
Aside from derechos, owl pellets and Boy Scouts, the experience was quite fun. The evening flashlight tour brought out some of the Zoo’s nocturnal animals that hideout during the day. With the tour guides, I learned way more about the animals and their behaviors than I would from reading the signs outside each exhibit.
And while we didn’t make s’mores and sing Kumbaya by a campfire, I managed to achieve my idea of a quintessential nighttime camping experience by ending the evening in the tent with a bag of homemade cookies the latest Jason Segel movie on my iPad.
However, the highlight of the adventure was the keeper-led tour of an exhibit area the following morning. We signed up to be apart of the Asia Trail and on the tour I got to feed a sloth bear (and watch the bear brush her teeth), see the new fishing cat kittens, help wake up the otters and watch a giant panda eat a giant popsicle.
And the best part of the trip? I was less than a mile from my apartment the whole time. Who knew you could campout in the city and feel worlds away?
Note to readers: If you prefer fewer Boy Scouts and more cocktails, FONZ also hosts an “adults only” overnight that includes all of the animal interaction plus a wine and cheese event. For more information, visit the Snore and Roar website.