News & Politics

5 Adorable Moments from the Baby Panda’s First Year

From first steps to snow days, Xiao Qi Ji always keeps it cute.

Giant Panda Xiao Qi Ji and Bamboo Shoots. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo.

The National Zoo’s baby panda will celebrate his first birthday on Saturday, August 21, but it is Xiao Qi Ji who is the gift to all of us. Throughout this otherwise cursed year, the giant panda cub has elicited many an “awww” and much laughter, keeping us entertained with his antics on the Giant Panda Cam. In honor of his birthday, here’s a look back at five adorable baby panda moments.

Taking his first steps

While spreads of stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes have been the highlights of Thanksgivings past, last year’s turkey was overshadowed by a panda. Three-month-old Xiao Qi Ji made a pilgrimage of his own on the holiday, taking his first steps toward mama bear Mei Xiang. Tucking his squat legs under his squat body, the baby bear waddled a few steps before toppling over.

Sampling a sweet potato

Xiao Qi Ji gets most of his food from mom, but the adventurous eater has also snacked on biscuits, apples, and chilly fruitsicles. When keepers offered the five-month-old cub sweet potato served on a bamboo stick in January, Xiao Qi Ji seemed to take a liking to the orange starch. Our panda prince gripped the stick in his tiny paw, rolling on his back to munch on the treat.

Playing in the snow

A little more than a week later, the petite panda got to try another “first”: snow. According to the Zoo, Xiao Qi Ji was hesitant when he was led out to a snowflake-dusted patio for his first-ever snow day. The cub soon came face-to-face with a mini snowman built by a zookeeper, sniffing around before taking a chomp out of the frozen figurine.

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Practicing Handstands

We’re head-over-heels for the baby bear and it looks like he feels the same way—literally. The Giant Panda Cam captured the eight-month-old cub standing on his paws and head in April, legs wriggling in the air as he stabilizes against the wall. Forget downward dog: We’re all about the bottom-up bear.

Climbing trees

Our roly-poly panda has a playful streak that continues to emerge as he grows. Climbing into a tree in May, the nine-month-old panda swung around the branch as if he was training for the Olympic gymnastic team. Like a mom on the playground, Mei Xiang sits beneath the tree, catching branches as her son drops them. Xiao Qi Ji finally scuttles down the tree, scooting to get a bear hug from his mom.

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Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.