Yun Zi, the San Diego Zoo's 5-month-old giant panda cub, was apparently determined to be as cute as physically possible in his debut to the media Wednesday. Photographers were on hand to document the cub in advance of his debut to the public this morning. As of today, he can be seen in a special outdoor exhibit zoo workers have dubbed "the classroom" for a few hours a day.
Keepers have waited longer to place Yun Zi on display than they did with his older siblings, brother Mei Sheng and sisters Hua Mei, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. Unlike his brother and sisters, Yun Zi (whose name translates to "Son of Cloud") was something of a homebody until recently, often opting to remain in the den he shares with his mother rather than explore outdoors. But in the last few weeks, he's "started picking up speed in the behavioral milestone department. ... His social play has picked up," senior research technician Suzanne Hall wrote on the zoo's blog. "He [now] seems very ready to meet the challenges of being on exhibit."
Despite Yun Zi's apparent readiness to appear before the public, Hall was quick to point out another potential problem with having him on display: His sleeping schedule. "Keepers have noted that when they come in at 6 a.m., he is often busily tumbling around," she explained. "Unfortunately, the San Diego Zoo doesn't open at 6 a.m. In fact, by the time grounds open, it has been our boy's habit to be sound asleep in the den." To get him ready for his big debut, keepers have been working with him to alter his schedule so that he wakes up a few hours later. Even so, the zoo cautions panda fans that, although his exhibit will be open daily from 9 a.m. to noon, "there are no guarantees that Yun Zi will be awake!" (You might not be able to see him awake in person, but we can promise he's up and at 'em in the additional photos you'll see after the jump.)