January 12, 2007
Baby Panda Makes Media Debut
ATLANTA -- The giant panda cub Mei Lan made her media debut Friday, romping about a Zoo Atlanta exhibit area for a crowd of reporters and cameras while her mother chomped bamboo.
The 16-pound cub and her mother, Lun Lun, have been in seclusion since the cub's birth on Sept. 6. Panda fans have been keeping up with the duo on the zoo Web site's panda cam and live video feeds at the exhibit.
Friday marked the beginning of limited public viewing of the pair, which the zoo expects will bring a sharp increase in attendance. Peak days could bring more than 13,000 visitors, compared with the typical 3,500, said Cary Burgess, senior vice president of operations.
Although Mei Lan can walk, she is a little wobbly on her feet and tumbles easily. At four months, she is becoming more curious and tends to explore quite a bit, zoo officials said.
"Each week you think she's about as cute as she can get, and then you have to revise your estimates," said Dwight Lawson, vice president for animal programs and science at the zoo.
Mother Kim Dobso teared up when she laid eyes on Mei Lan.
"She's a miracle," she said.
Dobso and her husband, Mike Dobso, planned a trip to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to see 1-year-old panda cub Tai Shan.
"It's a bit of a panda tour," Mike Dobso said while snapping pictures of a sleeping Mei Lan.
The zoo has hired 12 part-time exhibit guides, and the gift shop has been stocked with stuffed baby pandas, along with panda cub coffee mugs, key chains and T-shirts.
Mei Lan was the only giant panda cub born at a U.S. zoo last year, and the fifth in the past six years. Her name is Chinese for "Atlanta Beauty," officials said.
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