Bao Bao is ready for her close-up!

Photo: Jummy Olabanji

(WJLA) - It was 'lights, camera, action' at the National Zoo panda house -- Bao Bao, the zoo's big furry star, is ready for her close-up!

"I keep telling people that I've been doing this job for ten years, and this is the greatest experience that I've ever had," says National Zoo animal keeper, Marty Dearie.

As soon as Bao Bao was let into the indoor panda enclosure, the five-month-old immediately started walking, climbing, and exploring.

"She's actually building up her muscles and learning how to climb -- everything that a baby does -- and it takes a few tumbles here and there, but honestly she is so dense and full of fur that it doesn't bother her at all," adds another animal keeper, Laurie Thompson.

For the past few weeks, whenever Mei Xiang left her baby daughter, zookeepers snuck in to interact with Bao Bao. They tell us it’s necessary to get her ready for the crowds of people waiting to meet her.

"She generally is very willing to be interacting with us, to have us in her presence, and not to show any signs of annoyance with that," explains Dearie.

And Bao Bao is completely unafraid to leave her mother’s side and step into the spotlight.

"She definitely is very independent -- she doesn't seem to mind that mom isn't right there all the time," says Thompson.

According to the AP, Bao Bao officially goes on display January 18. Curators say she may be visible inside or outside, depending on the day. Zoo members will have an early preview starting Saturday.

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