Miracle Panda Cub at Belgian Zoo Remains a Celebrity 3 Years After Birth

June 12, 2019 Updated: June 12, 2019

Pairi Daiza wildlife park just outside Brussels in Belgium has a worldwide celebrity in its midst. In June of 2019, the park will celebrate the third birthday of this tiny celebrity, one of its most special inhabitants; a giant panda cub that was miraculously born in captivity.

Giant panda Hao Hao eating bamboo at Pairi Daiza animal park in Brugelette, Belgium, 2014 (©Getty Images | VIRGINIE LEFOUR/AFP)

As the panda cub’s third birthday fast approaches, footage of his birth has experienced a huge resurgence of interest. A panda cub thriving in captivity is a rare and fascinating thing, and the world is united in expectation of this little one’s journey into adolescence and adulthood.

CGTN America reported that the panda cub’s mother, 7-year-old Hao Hao, gave birth to her tiny baby boy in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, June 2, 2016. The cub weighed in at a mere 6.03 ounces (approx. 171 g). A female giant panda’s window of fertility lasts only one to three days and occurs only once a year, so this baby’s birth was nothing short of incredible.

Hao Hao and her mate Xing Hui lived at the park for two years prior to the cub’s conception. The giant panda’s natural mountain habitat is wet and rather cold, the zoo shares on its website, so the pandas at Pairi Daiza “appreciate our Belgian weather,” they say. Under an arrangement with the Chinese authorities and experts from the animals’ native country, Hao Hao was artificially inseminated, and the pregnancy took.

Baby Panda in Pairi Daiza

Ma maman et moi faisons connaissance. ❤️Suivez toutes mes aventures sur www.pairidaiza.fr

Posted by Pairi Daiza on Thursday, June 2, 2016

Extraordinary live footage of the birth showed the tiny cub emerging, looking for all intents and purposes like “a little pink sausage.” He gave a cry before being scooped up in his mother’s mouth, zoological director Tim Bouts shared, as reported by The Mirror. “We are still in a risky period,” Bouts admitted after the birth, indicating that the hard work wasn’t over just yet. But mother and baby bonded well; Hao Hao followed her mothering instincts from the get-go, nestling her baby in her arms, and when park keepers finally caught sight of the tiny pink bundle of limbs, they could not contain their emotions.

Baby Panda Takes His 1st Steps at Belgian Zoo

3-month-old panda cub at the Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium takes his very first steps. http://abcn.ws/2cu6N57

Posted by ABC News on Thursday, September 1, 2016

According to Pairi Daiza, there are now only about 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild. They are largely spread over 64 nature reserves in central China; very few of them live in zoos. Experts have been working hard for decades to help breed giant pandas in captivity before they are lost to extinction, hence the flurry of excitement around Hao Hao’s delivery. Her baby signifies hope.

Pairi Daiza wildlife park named the cub Tian Bao, meaning “Treasure of Heaven” in Chinese. Straits Times revealed that this name received 40 percent of the wildlife park’s online votes, beating Xing Hao (“Good Star”), Ou Xing (“Star of Europe”), Hua Li (“China and Belgium”) and An Tuan (“United Peace”) to become the public’s favorite. Tian Bao is the only giant panda ever to have been born in Belgium.

Zookeeper Tania Stroobant holds 3-month-old baby panda Tian Bao during a press conference on Sept. 15, 2016 (©Getty Images | JOHN THYS/AFP)

As of 2019, Tian Bao is doing exceptionally well and is taking to life as an international celebrity with commendable humility (he even appears at press conferences!). Giant Panda Global shared that Tian Bao moved to his own enclosure on Jan. 18, 2018, after being successfully weaned from his mother. “He lives independently in his new enclosure,” they said. “Both Tian Bao and Hao Hao are doing well.”

Bonjour tout le monde,Hoi iedereen,Soleil, soleil, soleil! 😊Hao Hao, Xing Hui et Tian Bao en redemandent. Et vous?…

Posted by Pairi Daiza on Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pairi Daiza couldn’t be more proud of their amazing success story, and here’s hoping it bodes well for the future of these beautiful, vulnerable creatures.