Fans flock to Belgian Zoo to help Tian Bao celebrate

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Giant panda keeper Robin Bouttefeux said he prepared bamboo shoots, carrots and a cake made from soybeans, rice and corn for Tian Bao’s birthday.

He said that every visitor loves Tian Bao. “He’s my best friend,” he added.

Bouttefeux, who has held the position for eight years, said caring for five giant pandas is a big job. “But it’s a good job working with pandas every day,” he said.

Domb described Tian Bao as “probably the most popular living thing in Belgium”.

“I’m serious. He’s very popular,” Domb said.

Tian Bao weighed only 171 grams at birth. He weighed 100 kilos on Thursday.

Domb said everyone will be sad when Tian Bao leaves next year. But he and his colleagues also know that Tian Bao’s siblings, twins Bao Di and Bao Mei, who will turn 3 on August 8, are soon to be separated from their mother, Hao Hao. Thus, Tian Bao’s space will be available once he leaves for China.

Giant pandas are solitary animals. Mothers and young do not stay together in the wild for long. If kept together beyond the time a cub is self-sufficient, it would eventually lead to aggression, according to giant panda researchers.

Hao Hao and the cubs’ father, Xing Hui, arrived in Belgium on February 23, 2014, under a 15-year loan agreement with the Chinese government.

By CHEN WEIHUA

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