From Limelight to Sunlight:
People from all over the world watched Hua Mei's development via the live Panda Cam on the Zoo's web site. This was the first time the general population had been able to observe a baby panda 24 hours a day.
On January 21, Hua Mei made her public debut in the giant panda exhibit area with her mother, Bai Yun. "She is thriving, curious, mobile and can move freely over the area. We hope she will not be shy," said Don Lindburg, giant panda team leader at the San Diego Zoo, on the day the public got their first glimpse of the growing black-and-white baby.
The cub's birth has enabled researchers including San Diego Zoo behaviorists and veterinarians, and two Chinese scientists from the Wolong Center for Captive Breeding and Research to gain further knowledge of the elusive bears by observing neonate, material and infant behavior and development.
It is estimated there are 1,000 pandas left in the world. The birth and subsequent healthy growth of Hua Mei are small steps toward enhancing the survival of this critically endangered species.
The three giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo by the People's Republic of Chine for a 12-year conservation study which began in September 1996. The Zoo's Giant Panda Research Station is supported in part by a three-year, nearly $3 million grant from Pacific Bell and the Pacific Bell Foundation. The grant supports the San Diego's Zoo's giant panda conservation, education and research efforts.
Hua Mei, meaning "China USA," was ceremoniously named by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 1.
The Zoo is operated by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego. Dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats, the Zoological Society also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Wild Animal Park (more than half of which has been set aside as a protected native species habitat) and the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES).
The effort to study giant pandas is one of many conservation and research projects worldwide conducted by the Zoological Society of San Diego.
Admission to the guest viewing section of the Giant Panda Research Station is free with admission to the San Diego Zoo and accessible during normal Zoo hours. Exhibit hours will vary and guests are encouraged to call 1-888-MY PANDA for up-to-date exhibit information.
The San Diego Zoo has granted permission to reprint the photo of Hua Mei. The side-bar graphic has been copied and modified from the San Diego Zoo Web site for use in our article.
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