The panda cub at the National Zoo seems to be letting no grass grow under his paws, at least figuratively. According to the zoo, he now is working on his third technique of locomotion.
After crawling came walking, and now it appears, the youngster has gone even beyond that, ascending, as is often done in Washington, to higher places.
He has “mastered walking,” the zoo said Monday, and with that developmental milestone behind him “he has started to practice his climbing skills.”
The venue for this display of his ability to rise is the rockwork in his quarters.
Without ropes, steel hardware or other aids employed by humans, the cub seems to be acquiring skill as a solo climber.
In a statement that may reassure fans who might fret about safety, the zoo said “he is very deliberate about the paths he takes when traveling up or down the rockwork.”
In fact, the zoo said, of the four panda cubs who learned their climbing skills in Washington, he seems to be the most careful of all.
The zoo reported that the new cub, who bears the name Xiao Qi Ji, displays a caution reminiscent of his mother, Mei Xiang.
It is not clear whether this trait is part of his normal genetic heritage or whether it betrays awareness of being special.
Xiao Qi Ji has been dubbed a miracle cub because he was born near the end of his mother’s reproductive years.
His new activity, climbing, like those that preceded it, appears to be a skill that is ultimately learned best by doing it.
So, however much he tries to play the careful climber, it is probably necessary to accept that, as the zoo reports, “he has taken a few tumbles here and there.”
As befits a cautious cub, those have been “not nearly as many” as his brothers and sister took at his age, which is now more than 140 days.
But however much a cub falls, tumbles can be tolerated. Pandas, the zoo said, are robust.
And that thick woolly black and white fur is not merely picturesque, the zoo indicated. It can also provide a cushion against a hard world.