We're in the midst of a polar vortex that is making everything in the world freeze, dead Christmas trees litter the streets, and the sun is still setting well before 5:00 p.m. each night. Everything is terrible... so why not check out these photos of Taiwan's new baby panda and try to forget?
Taipei zoo officially unveiled six-month-old Yuan Zai to the public on Monday, drawing an expected crowd of 19,000 viewers eager to see the giant-panda cub do all the things panda cubs do which includes, basically, sleeping and trying to climb things. According to the BBC, Yuan Zai only spends four hours awake each day.
Yuan Zai was born to panda parents Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan on July 6 of last year, making her the first Taiwanese panda. Here's a video of Yuan Zai reuniting with her mother for the first time after being raised in an incubator for around 5 weeks. Don't worry, Yuan Yuan doesn't try to eat her baby, she just lifts her by the head (with her teeth) and then gives her a literal bear hug.
Taiwan received the two parent bears, whose names together mean 'reunification,' from mainland China as a gesture of goodwill. Because the bears were a gift, rather than the customary loan, Yuan Zai can remain in Taipei Zoo. China is pretty good at using pandas for leverage - the country also trades the bears for uranium, and has been using them for modern diplomatic purposes since the 1950s. According to Want China Times, Yuan Zai is expected to spur a $16.6 million industry: stuffed animals, smartphone cases, and debut memorabilia contribute to the sum.
Those 19,000 people who skipped out on work and school to see the bear, and who were lucky enough to catch Yuan Zai in her waking hours, were in for a treat. As baby pandas go, she's pretty cute. Here she is hanging onto wood:
And here she is taking a break:
And here she is trying to climb again:
And here she is telling her mom about all of the above, presumably:
We haven't been this excited about a panda in years.
Update: Turns out Yuan Zai is not the only giant panda cub stepping into the public eye for the first time today. Bao Bao, the Smithsonian National Zoo's own baby bear, met the press at (what we can only assume was) a rival unveiling in Washington, D.C. Bao Bao will not be introduced to the general public for another two weeks. She looks kind of shy:
At four-and-half-months old, Bao Bao is younger than Yuan Zai but has already hobnobbed with the likes of Hugh Jackman, who posed in front of her cage during a VIP tour back in December.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.