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Os pandas gigantes estão ameaçados de extinçãoe quase não se reproduzem. Há três décadas o zoo esperava por um filhote saudável dessa espécie

Tai Shan's Fans Flock to the Zoo For a Panda-Size Birthday Bash.

By Sue Anne Pressley Montes Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, July 10, 2006.

The birthday boy did not seem too impressed by all the attention, but by now, Tai Shan is used to the cameras, the faces, the "oohs" and "ahs." At his first birthday party yesterday, the celebrity panda cub was more interested in his presents -- a play pool filled with ice water and a fruitsicle shaped like a giant cake -- than in the thousands of people who came to tell him how cute he is and how much he has meant to the National Zoo.

"He's a rock star," said Chevy Chase lawyer Roger Goldman after the cub's big photo op, wrestling his mother for part of the popsicle. "He's like Mick Jagger or somebody."

It was a day of cute -- but who thought it wouldn't be? Brownie Troop 3907 from Gaithersburg sang "Happy Birthday" twice. A FedEx van pulled up with "a special delivery" -- a birthday cake for the people guests. Heads young and old sported pointy green Tai Shan party hats, and many a hand clutched a stuffed version of you-know-who, available for $13.99 (small) or $19.99 (large) in one of the souvenir huts.

As early as 7 a.m., fans began amassing outside the zoo for the 10 a.m. opening of the Panda House. Juli Brown, 31, traveled farther than most, flying in from her home in Greeneville, Tenn., on Saturday "just to see the baby" she's been watching from afar on the zoo's webcam, which has had 21 million hits since his birth. She has seen him scramble up trees, munch on bamboo, play in snow for the first time and grow -- and grow.

From the moment he was born, Tai Shan has commanded the spotlight. Giant pandas, which are endangered, are difficult to breed, and the Zoo's three decades of struggling to produce a healthy cub had resulted in many disappointments. A previous pair of adult pandas had produced five cubs during the 1980s, but none lived more than few days. When Tai Shan was born on July 9, 2005, weighing four ounces, he was initially dubbed "Butterstick," since he was only the size of a stick of butter. Things have changed.

"Now, he's Butterball," said Mary Schultz of Dallastown, Pa., about the roly-poly cub who now weighs a robust 56 pounds.

Undoubtedly there are a few people out there who may be a little tired of the ongoing chronicles of Tai Shan, who believe the cub's adorability factor has been milked. But the Schultzes and others who attended yesterday's event are not those people. Danny Schultz was so inspired by repeated visits and much reading about pandas that he signed up a while back as a zoo volunteer. Now, he drives the four-hour round-trip each Thursday to enlighten others about Tai Shan's activities, likes and dislikes.

"I can't believe he's a year old," Schultz said, echoing the thoughts of many at the party. "It's gone by so fast."

For his birthday appearance, Tai Shan performed like the little star he is, emerging with his mother, Mei Xiang, and ignoring all the staring people. With Mom, he meandered down the path toward his new play pool, ball and his first fruitsicle -- a frozen treat made of bamboo leaves, carrots, pears, beets and apples.

"Come on, Tai," zoo director John Berry cooed softly from the viewing area, as the cub moved toward the small, bright-blue pool. "He has delivered every step of the way since he was born."

And he delivered again yesterday, delighting his fans by dipping a paw into the pool, then turning toward the fruitsicle, as if noticing it for the first time. For a moment, he seemed torn, looking back and forth from the pool to the treat, as if deliberating what to do next. But the popsicle eventually won, and Tai Shan embraced it in a big panda hug that sent camera crews scurrying to catch the perfect party shot.

There was one small cloud in an otherwise happy day. Tai Shan, like his parents, is on loan to the Zoo from China, and, as it stands, plans are to send him there shortly after he turns 2. Yesterday nobody wanted to think about that -- or how fast a year can go by.

"I like that panda," said Joshua Perez, 9, of Woodbridge, who is "really into animals" and has visited Tai Shan several times. "I want to be either an actor or a zookeeper."

He and his mother, Joanna, have talked about the cub's eventual departure. "I guess it's fair," she said, "but it's sad to think about. We don't want him to go."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
(Source of the text above)

Tai Shan, National Zoo's Panda Cub at 1 year old.

Date: July 08, 2006 at 11:18.

Author: dbking.

Permission (Reusing this image): see below.

Licensing: Creative Commons License.

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{{Information |Description= July 2006 Scavenger Hunt "most exotic animal for your location" Happy FIRST Birthday Tai Shan, Born July 9, 2005 Tai Shan Holds Zoo's Hopes, Public's Heart Staff Birthday Wish: Longer Stay for Cub, 1 By Karlyn Ba)


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