SAN DIEGO — “Panda party bags” filled with treats, stuffed burlap pillows and a half-dozen bamboo-bread cupcakes marked giant panda Xiao Liwu’s 6th birthday celebration at the San Diego Zoo Monday.
The bear, often referred to as “Mr. Wu,” turned 6 last weekend at the Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek.
His party, which attracted zoo staff and guests alike, also featured papier-mache lanterns with messages reminding of the importance to conserve energy and water while fighting habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade.
Xiao Liwu is the sixth giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo to mother Bai Yun and the fifth cub fathered by Gao Gao. Overall, the zoo is home to three giant pandas on loan from China for conservation studies.
In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reclassified the giant panda as vulnerable — instead of endangered — indicating in its report that current conservation efforts are working. However, low panda population numbers and habitat loss remain a problem, according to the zoo. Currently, scientists count nearly 2,000 giant pandas living in their native habitat, the majority of them adults.
Zoo guests can visit Xiao Liwu and his mother at the Panda Trek habitat during the day, or during Nighttime Zoo summer festivities. The zoo will stay open until 9 nightly until Sept. 3.