Bei Bei Surgery: National Zoo Panda Cub Making Successful Recovery

Smithsonian National Zoo panda cub Bei Bei’s surgery has gone down successfully, as reports state the popular cub is now recovering following an emergency operation performed on Friday.

According to a report from the BBC, the 1-year-old male panda cub is now in stable condition with a “very good” prognosis following the surgery. The operation was done in order to remove a “lemon-sized mass of bamboo” at the top of Bei Bei’s small intestine that was discovered via ultrasound.

An official statement from the National Zoo further detailed what happened in the run-up to Bei Bei’s surgery. According to the statement, the giant panda cub had first experienced nausea and stomach discomfort on Thursday, November 24, and was also refusing to eat and sleeping longer than usual. He was then given an anti-nausea injection and observed throughout the day by animal care and veterinary staff members.


On Friday, however, with Bei Bei showing no signs of improvement, the cub was taken to the veterinary hospital for an ultrasound of his stomach. That was where volunteer Dr. Elyshia Hankin discovered the aforementioned blockage, which required a surgical procedure to remove.

The surgery was performed by board-certified volunteer Dr. Sebastian Gordo, who was able to remove a masticated chunk of bamboo approximated to be about the size of a lemon.

In the meantime, Bei Bei is on a water diet, and will then make the transition to pears, sweat potatoes, and other soft foods. The press release adds that Bei Bei is expected to revert back to his usual diet “in the near future,” with finely-cut bamboo leaves slowly reintroduced to his diet over time.

Those hoping to visit Bei Bei and check up on him will have to wait, the press release added. Due to the sensitive nature of Bei Bei’s surgery, zoo officials have decided to temporarily close the David M. Rubinstein Giant Panda Habitat, where the panda cub can normally be seen. Other pandas, however, will remain visible to the public in their respective outdoor yards.

“To ensure his recovery goes smoothly and veterinary and animal care staff have access to Bei Bei, he will be housed separately from Mei Xiang, his mother, and off the panda cams for the next few days. The Zoo will provide daily updates on Bei Bei’s recovery via social media. The panda house is temporarily closed. Bao Bao, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian may be viewed in their outdoor yards.”

In the above statement, Smithsonian National Zoo director Dennis Kelly expressed his thanks to the zoo’s staff for their quick response in treating the panda cub.

“I’m extremely proud and thankful for our team of keepers, veterinarians, animal care staff, volunteer medical experts and all staff who have helped facilitate the urgent response. Bei Bei’s prognosis is very good. The challenge will be for our team to monitor him safely, and that requires his cooperation.”


Bei Bei first rose to prominence when he was born on August 22, 2015, the BBC wrote. This was because people were able to view his mother’s pregnancy, using the National Zoo’s “panda cam” to track the progress. The cub, whose name is Chinese for “precious,” was named by U.S. and Chinese first ladies Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan.

The Smithsonian National Zoo promised to share regular updates on Bei Bei’s post-surgery recovery on its social media pages. As of this writing, the only update on Twitter was Friday’s confirmation that the bowel surgery had gone through successfully, but the Twitterverse has nonetheless been quite active in wishing Bei Bei a smooth and speedy recovery, as seen in the above tweets and others.

[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]