Panda cub Bei Bei shows off scar after surgery

Giant panda cub Bei Bei shows off his abdominal scar as he recovers from surgery at the National Zoo on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The cub had the "life-saving" surgery to remove a bowel blockage the day after Thanksgiving. He returned to the Panda House on Monday.  (WTOP/Kristi King)
Giant panda cub Bei Bei shows off his abdominal scar as he recovers from surgery at the National Zoo on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The cub had the “lifesaving” surgery to remove a bowel blockage the day after Thanksgiving. He returned to public display at the Panda House on Monday. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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Bei Bei underwent surgery to remove bamboo from his bowels. Bei Bei is being fed a special biscuit developed by zoo nutritionists at the National Zoo to help ease his transition back to eating bamboo.

“It’s made out of sweet potato, ground leaf eater biscuits and ground bamboo leaf,” said Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy. “It took some experimenting to tailor the ‘transition’ biscuit to his taste preference.”

(Courtesy Facebook/National Zoo)

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Giant panda cub Bei Bei shows off his abdominal scar as he recovers from surgery at the National Zoo on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The cub had the "life-saving" surgery to remove a bowel blockage the day after Thanksgiving. He returned to the Panda House on Monday.  (WTOP/Kristi King)
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How Bei Bei's mom is handling cub's surgery - Kristi King, WTOP

WASHINGTON — Giant panda cub Bei Bei returned to public display at the National Zoo on Monday after emergency surgery to remove an intestinal blockage.

“He’s doing great. We’re happy with his progress,” said Marty Dearie, one of the panda keepers at the zoo.

The 1-year-old cub was spotted lounging in the panda house, his long abdominal scar on display.

The cub had what was described as “lifesaving” surgery on Nov. 25 to remove a lemon-sized mass of bamboo that blocked the cub’s intestine. Zookeepers noticed something was wrong on Thanksgiving morning when Bei Bei seemed lethargic and vomited twice.

For now, the cub is on the panda equivalent of bed rest.

“He can’t go outside and he can’t have any bamboo,” Dearie said.

Bamboo is hard to digest, so Dearie said Bei Bei is getting as much as he wants of other regular diet items such as leaf eater biscuits, fruit and cooked sweet potato.

Bei Bei is being fed a special biscuit developed by zoo nutritionists at the National Zoo to help ease his transition back to eating bamboo.

“It’s made out of sweet potato, ground leaf eater biscuits and ground bamboo leaf,” said Zoo Spokeswoman Devin Murphy. “It took some experimenting to tailor the ‘transition’ biscuit to his taste preference.”

“We have not heard of many other instances of this,” Dearie said of the intestinal blockage. “Right now — it’s rest, medicine and food. Those are the best things for him at this point.”

Even when in the best of health, Bei Bei does a lot of napping. So a Monday morning arrival to the panda house provided a well-timed treat for visitors from Nashville, Tennessee.

“Bei Bei wake up mamma! He wake up!” toddler Elin exclaimed to her mother Valerie Parker.

“We found out this morning that they’d just opened the panda house,” Parker said. “It’s perfect timing.”

The zoo had closed the panda house to the public following the cub’s surgery. The exhibit reopened at 9 a.m. on Monday and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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