Baby panda places new spotlight on San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is an extremely popular destination for families who own real estate in San Diego, as well as tourists who visit the city for a sunny getaway. While the zoo is always a top attraction, it gained even more public attention after a baby panda was born here in late July. Although the panda, named Xiao Liwu, is not yet ready to make his public debut, panda enthusiasts can watch him nearly 24 hours a day on a Panda Cam installed in the den he shares with his mother.

Zoo-goers are very anxious for the release of Xiao Liwu, as the Chinese government may recall the panda back to China when he turns three years old. The San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos that participate in a loan program with China. Veterinarians, zookeepers and members of related occupations can study the endangered pandas to help them breed and study other biological functions. San Diego has a unique relationship with the Chinese government, as the birth of Xiao Liwu - the sixth at the San Diego Zoo - marks the new record for a panda breeding facility outside of China, according to the Daily Mail.

Having live pandas makes zoos more popular with visitors and can generate substantial extra revenue to benefit the other exhibits and animals on display. For San Diego, the pandas can also benefit other economic sectors of the city when these visitors eat, shop, and look for lodging. While animal specialists may be able to help generate a population boom for these endangered creatures, the zoo can also benefit from their short time spent on location.

"He needs two things to go on exhibit - the ability to climb, and he's not quite there yet, and he also has to have the behavior of following his mom out and back into the den," Dr. Beth Bicknese, senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo, said to the news source. "We're waiting for him to be stronger in climbing and waiting for him to be better at following, then we're going to have him out on exhibit."

In the mean time, people of all ages can enjoy watching the cub develop his motor skills and investigate the layout of his den. Xiao Liwu, a name that means "Little Gift" in English, currently weighs 14.5 pounds and measured 29 inches long.