Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji celebrates 3rd birthday at US zoo
Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji celebrated his third birthday at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC, on Monday.
Animal care staff presented Xiao Qi Ji with a special panda-friendly fruitsicle cake made by the zoo's nutritionists in the morning.
Keepers crafted the multi-tiered cake and "3" topper using frozen diluted apple and pineapple juices and decorated the tiers with apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and bamboo sprigs.
Many visitors came to the giant panda habitat early in the morning for Xiao Qi Ji's birthday celebration and sang the birthday song together as the male cub ate the cake.
"Happy third birthday, Xiao Qi Ji, and I love you," Jamie Quick from Virginia Beach, Virginia, told Xinhua.
"They're adorable. I love them. They have helped me through trying times in my life," Quick said of giant pandas. "I love all animals but pandas especially, and Xiao Qi Ji is my favorite."
Wearing a T-shirt printed with a picture of Xiao Qi Ji eating bamboo, Quick added that she would love to go to China to see giant pandas there.
Xiao Qi Ji, who weighs a little over 200 pounds, is "very healthy" and "very happy," according to Brandie Smith, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
Smith also lauded the collaboration between American and Chinese experts and scientists to study and save the species.
Xiao Qi Ji's mother, Mei Xiang, turned 25 years old in July. Tian Tian, the cub's biological father, will mark his 26th birthday later this month.
The three pandas will leave the United States by December, according to the zoo. A farewell celebration will be held from September 23 to Oct 1.