Bye-Bye Bei Bei

Posted on Saturday, Nov 30, 2019

贝贝 (bei bei) the panda was born on August 22, 2015 in Smithsonian National Zoo. His mother 美香(Mei Xiang) was a gift to the U.S. from China in 1998. There are few places outside of China that are allowed to artificially inseminate giant pandas, but the United States is one of those few. Sadly, after birth the pandas are allowed to stay for 4 years before being sent back to China. This November 11 to 18th is the Farwell Celebration for 贝贝.

I have loved pandas since I was a little boy. There is something so majestic about a 150 – 220 lbs., 2-3ft tall bear that eats bamboo all day. While studying in China, I missed the opportunity to hold one of these beautiful cubs in Chengdu. For a good while I had played the panda cam when I was working on homework just to see what these little rascals were doing, but it’s usually just them sleeping. Every once in a blue moon, you would get some good panda moments such as eating bamboo or playing with a little red ball, but I knew that going to Washington D.C. would be the best opportunity for me to see one of these graceful creatures in action.

The week leading up to it I studied these panda’s every move on the Panda Cam, it wasn’t very hard when they sleep anywhere from 10-16 hours a day #goals. I soon began to learn when the perfect time to visit was. I called this time “Prime Panda Hours” and it was when they woke up to eat. Prime Panda Hours are anywhere from 10am-12pm and that is where you get to see these beloved creatures munch on some bamboo and run around outside. As Saturday rolled around, I made my way to the zoo and waited there for the panda feeding, but when I got to the exhibit during Prime Panda Hours, they were sleeping! “Had my research and my efforts all been for not?” I wondered as I started at the sleeping beauty. After 15 minutes of nothing, I walked away dejected, sad that I could not see one single moment of action. Before I left, I saw my heroes, the Panda Cam operators. As I watched them work their Hollywood magic, they pointed to one of the many televisions and I knew what that meant... the sleeping dragon 贝贝 had awoken from his slumber. I rushed to the exhibit where I saw the mighty panda effortlessly make short work of what had to be 30 bamboo shoots, play with his prized red ball, and go outside. This was the most magical 30 min of my life. In order to commemorate this momentous occasion, I purchased a pair of panda socks which I will don on November 19th when 贝贝 leaves us. The rest of the zoo was ok.

David Horsley
U.S. Department of Commerce - Office of the Deputy Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service
Washington, D.C. | fall 2019