Go behind the scenes with Bei Bei

Bei Bei is very food motivated and responsive to being offered treats of apples, sweet potato and a leaf-eater biscuit which is made of soy protein. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Bei Bei is very food motivated and responsive to being offered treats of apples, sweet potato and a leaf-eater biscuit which is made of soy protein. (WTOP/Kristi King)

(WTOP/Kristi King)
(WTOP/Kristi King)
"Target training" such as touching a nose to a ball can be shaped into other movements and behaviors to assist with future veterinary checks. (WTOP/Kristi King)
“Target training” such as touching a nose to a ball can be shaped into other movements and behaviors to assist with future veterinary checks. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Bei Bei at 8-months-old has become interested in adult food earlier than his siblings did. That's helping advance his training. "I feel like we're actually ahead of schedule with Bei Bei in relationship to Bao Bao," said National Zoo Animal Keeper Shellie Pick referring to Bei's big sister.(WTOP/Kristi King)
Bei Bei at 8-months-old has become interested in adult food earlier than his siblings did. That’s helping advance his training. “I feel like we’re actually ahead of schedule with Bei Bei in relationship to Bao Bao,” said National Zoo Animal Keeper Shellie Pick referring to Bei’s big sister.(WTOP/Kristi King)

Bei Bei will continue to rely on mother Mei Xiang for milk until he's about a year-and-a-half old. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Bei Bei will continue to rely on mother Mei Xiang for milk until he’s about a year-and-a-half old. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Animal Keeper Shellie Pick tries to convince Bei Bei to come down so he can be let outside where he typically heads straight for a tree.  "He does sleep up in a tree and that is very natural for them," Pick said. That gives nursing moms in the wild time to eat while a cub is safe from predators. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Animal Keeper Shellie Pick tries to convince Bei Bei to come down so he can be let outside where he typically heads straight for a tree. “He does sleep up in a tree and that is very natural for them,” Pick said. That gives nursing moms in the wild time to eat while a cub is safe from predators. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Right now, Bei Bei is learning to come when called and to touch a ball in target training. Eventually he'll learn to respond to commands for additional movements and behavior. "They will be asking him to do things like stand up, open his mouth, and reach his arm out," said National Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Right now, Bei Bei is learning to come when called and to touch a ball in target training. Eventually he’ll learn to respond to commands for additional movements and behavior. “They will be asking him to do things like stand up, open his mouth, and reach his arm out,” said National Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy. (WTOP/Kristi King)

The two big screens on the right are what's shown on the National Zoo's panda cams. A volunteer monitors and logs the activities of all the resident pandas: Dad Tian Tian pictured to the left, mom Mei Xiang, cub Bei Bei currently in the tree shown in the middle monitor, and his sister Bao Bao. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The two big screens on the right are what’s shown on the National Zoo’s panda cams. A volunteer monitors and logs the activities of all the resident pandas: Dad Tian Tian pictured to the left, mom Mei Xiang, cub Bei Bei currently in the tree shown in the middle monitor, and his sister Bao Bao. (WTOP/Kristi King)

At 8-months-old, Bei Bei weighed about 45 pounds and is much larger than his siblings were at this age. Here he is with his mom Mei Xiang. (WTOP/Kristi King)
At 8 months old, Bei Bei now weighs about 45 pounds and is much larger than his siblings were at this age. Here he is with his mom, Mei Xiang. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A visitor to the National Zoo on May 2 captures images of giant panda Tian Tian, seen here in the distance or for a larger view through the viewfinder of this digital camera. “Adult pandas are solitary in the wild,” said National Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy.

(WTOP/Kristi King)
(WTOP/Kristi King)
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Bei Bei is very food motivated and responsive to being offered treats of apples, sweet potato and a leaf-eater biscuit which is made of soy protein. (WTOP/Kristi King)
"Target training" such as touching a nose to a ball can be shaped into other movements and behaviors to assist with future veterinary checks. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Bei Bei at 8-months-old has become interested in adult food earlier than his siblings did. That's helping advance his training. "I feel like we're actually ahead of schedule with Bei Bei in relationship to Bao Bao," said National Zoo Animal Keeper Shellie Pick referring to Bei's big sister.(WTOP/Kristi King)
Bei Bei will continue to rely on mother Mei Xiang for milk until he's about a year-and-a-half old. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Animal Keeper Shellie Pick tries to convince Bei Bei to come down so he can be let outside where he typically heads straight for a tree.  "He does sleep up in a tree and that is very natural for them," Pick said. That gives nursing moms in the wild time to eat while a cub is safe from predators. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Right now, Bei Bei is learning to come when called and to touch a ball in target training. Eventually he'll learn to respond to commands for additional movements and behavior. "They will be asking him to do things like stand up, open his mouth, and reach his arm out," said National Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The two big screens on the right are what's shown on the National Zoo's panda cams. A volunteer monitors and logs the activities of all the resident pandas: Dad Tian Tian pictured to the left, mom Mei Xiang, cub Bei Bei currently in the tree shown in the middle monitor, and his sister Bao Bao. (WTOP/Kristi King)
At 8-months-old, Bei Bei weighed about 45 pounds and is much larger than his siblings were at this age. Here he is with his mom Mei Xiang. (WTOP/Kristi King)
July 3, 2022 | Bei Bei's learning process (Rick Massimo)

WASHINGTON – At 8 months old, giant panda cub Bei Bei is proving to be precocious.

He’s much larger than his siblings were at this age and his early interest in adult food is accelerating his training.

“For Bao Bao unfortunately there weren’t a lot of foods she was interested in, therefore it was hard for us to initiate training with her,” said National Zoo Animal Keeper Shellie Pick referring to Bei Bei’s big sister. “She was a picky eater.”

The National Zoo let WTOP go behind the scenes to see the growing cub up-close as he interacted with his keepers and his mom, Mei Xiang, Monday.

Bei Bei still relies on his mother’s milk for about 80 percent of his diet. But he’s taken a liking to sweet potatoes, apples and soy protein biscuits, and he’s starting to mouth bamboo.

For those planning a visit to see the giant panda’s at the National Zoo, park staff recommend a visit early in the day.

Pandas spend a lot of time sleeping because they’re carnivores that have evolved to eat plant material.

“To make up for that energy that they’re not receiving from meat, they have to eat or sleep for a majority of the day,” Pick said.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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