D.C. panda cub starts to crawl

The National Zoo’s panda cub has started to lift her head and crawl around her den. Recently, she scooted to the door before her mother, Mei Xiang, pulled her back, zoo officials said at a briefing.

“She’s not on all four legs” yet, said Brandie Smith, the curator for giant pandas at the zoo.

The unnamed cub, who is 3 months old and weighs 10 pounds, just started to get her back legs under her.

Mei Xiang, who is known for being cautious, took her out of the den for the first time last week. Once the cub receives her rabies shot, which is scheduled for the first week in December, she will be allowed to go outside — but at her mom’s discretion.

Animal keepers are babyproofing the panda yard in preparation for the cub’s venture outdoors, Smith said.

“We are going to collar some of the trees,” Smith said. “We want her to climb, but we don’t want her to climb too high. So if she climbs and gets stuck, we can get her down.”

By then, she’ll have a name, which will be announced at a ceremony Dec. 1, when she turns 100 days old. In online voting, more than 110,000 votes have been registered, with people choosing from among five Mandarin names: Bao Bao, which means precious or treasure; Ling Hua, (darling, delicate flower); Long Yun (Long is the Chinese symbol of the dragon, and Yun means charming); Mulan (a legendary young female warrior from the 5th century and the star of an animated Disney film; the word also means magnolia); and Zhen Bao (valuable, treasure).

In other developments, zoo officials are investigating Monday’s zebra attack on an animal keeper. They declined to comment on the condition of the zookeeper at the request of his family.

It was unusual for the keeper to be in the area where he was, officials said. There were no cameras that recorded what happened. During the attack, a gazelle was so startled that it ran into a barrier and died.

The zebra was temporarily taken out of the exhibit, which is standard protocol after an incident, but went back on exhibit Tuesday, said Devin Murphy, a zoo spokeswoman.

But the bulk of the briefing was devoted to the panda cub, who has hundreds of thousands of fans around the world.

The zoo’s two panda cams record her movements, and many people are obsessed with watching her.

The cub’s naming ceremony will be attended by the Chinese ambassador to the United States and officials from the State Department.

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