WASHINGTON — Sometimes a sweet snuggle is all moms want on Mother’s Day. This past week, Giant panda Mei Xiang and her son, Xiao Qi Ji, shared just that. The Smithsonian National Zoo tweeted a video of the moment in honor of the upcoming holiday.
If you’ve had a hankering to see the pandas in person, your time is coming up soon: the Smithsonian is reopening eight of its facilities to the public in May, including the National Zoo.
Passes to enter the zoo will be available starting May 14 and it will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors ages two and older are required to wear a face-covering during the visit, but face coverings can be removed while eating or drinking in certain areas. Social distancing of six feet or more is also required.
Viewing of the Zoo’s newest panda cub Xiao Qi Ji will be limited for social distancing purposes, the Zoo says. A visit will require a separate free timed-entry pass, which visitors can get for free when they arrive at the Zoo. Passes will be released throughout the day.
In April, the Zoo announced that the giant panda team would begin training the 8-month-old cub with positive reinforcement. That training is important, they explained, as it helps enable the staff to monitor their overall health.
The veterinary team also conducted laser therapy treatment on mom Mei Xiang’s left shoulder. She is 22 years old and has osteoarthritis; a degenerative disease affecting joint cartilage and the underlying bone with associated pain and stiffness. The pair enjoyed a suckle of diluted honey water as a reward for treatment and training.
Although he is just months old, Xiao Qi Ji he eats nearly all of the same foods that his parents eat—bamboo, sweet potato, nutrient-rich fiber biscuits, pears and apples—on a regular basis.