INTRODUCTION:
Tai Shan, the giant panda cub, finally made his media debut at the National Zoo. VOA's Paige Kollock has the story.


NARRATOR:
It took some gentle prodding. But Tai Shan, the giant panda cub, made his media debut Tuesday at the Nati onal Zoo in Washington D.C. Tai Shan chased his zoo keeper and played around in his indoor enclosure.

Tai Shan, who was born 4 1/2 months ago, is being watched closely by doctors. The five previous giant panda cubs born at the National Zoo since 1983 have all died within days. Suzan Murray is the chief veterinarian at the National Zoo.

Dr. Suzan Murray,
"He is very playful and active. From a health standpoint, he's very healthy. We've done a lot of monitoring of him to learn as much as we can about the normal development of panda cubs. We've spent a lot of time measuring heart rate, respiratory rate, when his eyes and ears open"

NARRATOR:
Assistant Curator for Pandas Lisa Stevens is pleased with Tai Shan's development.

Lisa Stevens, Assistant Curator
"He's just a fantastic little bear. He's spending his days exploring his indoor enclosure. He's learning how to perfect the art of climbing. Going up is really great, coming down is a bit difficult."

NARRATOR:
The zoo will gradually begin allowing the general public to visit Tai Shan in the next couple of weeks. But for now a webcam is currently available online to let the public watch the baby panda.

The zoo's agreement with the Chinese government states that Tai Shan will return to China when he is 2 years old, where he will have more breeding options. Zoo officials believe this is for the best as giant pandas are threatened with extinction. Dr. JoGayle Howard performed the artificial insemination on Tai Shan's mother.

Dr. JoGayle Howard, Theriogenologist
"The goal really is to save Giant Pandas in the wild and we have great scientists from the National Zoo working in the field trying to understand the factors effecting the habitat in Giant Pandas, what it's going to take to save Giant Pandas in the wild."

There are currently as few as 1,600 Pandas living in the wild in China.

Paige Kollock, VOA News.