City Desk

These Are the People You Meet at a Panda Debut

On Saturday, 5-month-old panda cub Bao Bao made her public debut. The National Zoo estimates that about 10,000 people came out over the holiday weekend to see the bear, who mostly celebrated by sleeping and ignoring the smartphone cameras inching up on her encased habitat (like all panda cubs, Bao Bao is nearsighted).  The more interesting animals to observe at the zoo this weekend? Humans, who broke down into six types.

CutePandaThe Fanatic
Clad in a studded panda necklace and a faux panda hat, Lisa Washam traveled from Lima, Ohio, to visit Bao Bao on opening day. She arrived at the zoo around 6:45 a.m. and was one of the first people to be let in to the panda house when it opened at 8. She then made three consecutive laps around the zoo to see Bao Bao. “Some people take cigarette breaks, I take panda breaks,” she said of getting hooked on pandas while watching the popular Panda Cam as she worked on her dissertation. “They’re just magic.”

The Easily Impressed 6-Year-Old
Nicole, 6, made her mom, Yolanda Estrada, take her to the zoo this weekend after learning about Bao Bao on the news. Her response to getting a glimpse of Bao Bao sleeping in a burrowed rock: “He’s cute.”

sad-cameraThe Failed Photographer
Erwan Mazarico brought his Canon SLR camera to try and capture a picture of the year’s most coveted panda. Did he get a good shot? “No, not really, [she] was behind the rocks,” he said. “I never have much luck taking photos of pandas.”

The Disappointed Visitor
“Well, that was worth it,” Beth Houser quipped as she exited the panda exhibit Saturday with her two small children. Visiting D.C. from Philadelphia, Houser wasn’t one of the lucky ones who caught the cub in her few waking moments. “I did see a black and white spot. It was just a big lump…[These things] never live up to the hype.”

The Excited Journalist
Bao Bao is pretty effective click bait, and seemingly every media outlet in town (as well as some from China) were at opening day to get a piece of the lethargic action. “Sometimes I feel I am as excited as the kids are,” says Nicholas Munson, a student reporter at University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. Like all the other reporters, Munson, who says he is not a morning person, was up early Saturday to capture the first cub shots. “For the panda, anything is worth it.”

shoe-tracksThe Runner
With its free admission and proximity to Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo is a popular spot for joggers to run through. So naturally, when temperatures dipped below freezing Saturday, a number of people dressed head to toe in spandex exercise gear took brief respite in the p  and a house. “There’s no way to just go by when it’s opening day,” said Bronwyn Higgins, who saw all the panda hoopla while she was running through the zoo with a friend. “You feel like you’re obligated to go.”

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