Panda cub enjoys snow day at San Diego Zoo; 8-month-old Xiao Liwu on public exhibit since January

Snow spread out around encolosure

SAN DIEGO - Panda cub Xiao Liwu got to experience his first snow day at the San Diego Zoo Tuesday.

About 30,000 pounds of snow was delivered to the nearly 8-month-old cub's exhibit, and he paused to check out the white stuff before playing in it with his mother.

Megan Owens, a conservation program specialist with San Diego Zoo Global, said that dealing with snow is normal for pandas in the wild in their native China.

"They have to cope with that to feed and to get around under normal circumstances, and I'm sure the young ones play with it in their natural habitat, too," Owens said.

The zoo expects the snow, which was supplied by donors, will only last one or two days.

Xiao Liwu, which translates in English to "Little Gift," went on public display at the zoo for the first time in January. He was born July 29 to mother Bai Yun and father Gao Gao. He is Bai Yun's sixth cub and her fifth with Gao Gao.

Bai Yun was nearly 21 years old when she gave birth to Xiao Liwu, making her the oldest giant panda known to give birth.

The giant pandas at the zoo are on loan from the Chinese government, which has the option of calling the black-and-white bears back to their native country after they reach age 3. Of Bai Yun's six offspring, only the newest cub and Yun Zi, who turned three in August, remain at the San Diego Zoo.

The local zoo is one of four in the United States that participate in the loan program. For a hefty fee to China, the zoos get to study the critically endangered species up close and help with breeding. At the same time, the pandas make for highly popular attractions.

Only around 1,600 pandas are believed to be left in the wild in China, in part because of deforestation and the expansion of farming. The bamboo-eating panda has lost much of its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China to roads and railroads, according to the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund.

Click to watch the San Diego Zoo's Panda Cam

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