Since his birth almost 6 months ago, the baby panda cub at the National Zoo has marked several big milestones...opening his eyes, taking his first steps, making his first sounds...discovering sweet potatoes and biscuits, climbing, and now...venturing outside his and mom Mei Xiang's enclosed den!!! Just a few days shy of his 6-month birthday, Xiao followed momma into their outdoor enclosure for the very first time! According to the zoo, "Xiao Qi Ji was cautious yet curious. Mostly, he stayed on the sidewalk at the back of the yard. Mei Xiang continued to calmly eat while her son ventured onto the grass and pawed at one of their enrichment toys. He walked along the wall of the panda house, sniffed the doors and gates and took in all the new sights and smells. Xiao Qi Ji peeked into the “howdy” window that looks into his father Tian Tian’s yard. He also tested out his climbing skills on the mesh that separates the keeper area from the bears’ yard, but he didn’t get far before he lost his grip and dropped just a few inches to the ground below.
The whole time Xiao Qi Ji was outside, the door to their indoor habitat was open. He wandered in and out a few times, and after about 45 minutes he decided he had had enough of the outdoors and didn’t come back out. Mei Xiang shifted inside shortly thereafter, and the pair made their way to another enclosure that was filled with fresh bamboo. Even though Xiao Qi Ji stayed close to “home base,” his first outing in the yard was successful!
We are keeping a close eye on the weather and hope to give Xiao Qi Ji another opportunity to go outside soon. Lately, the temperature has been below freezing, and the precipitation conditions—sleet and snow—are not ideal for acclimating him to a new environment for an extended period of time. So, until the weather warms, he will stay inside where the temperature is a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the cooler months and 65 degrees in the warmer months."