Bao Bao may look cuddly, but her fur is a bit scratchy. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Not even National Zoo staff are allowed to sneak a snuzzle with Bao Bao. “As tempting as that would be, that’s not our role here. Our role is to be as true to what their wild counterparts are doing,” giant panda keeper Nicole MacCorkle says.

Plus, if you DID get to pet her, it might be a letdown. Panda hair isn’t as soft as it looks, especially as a panda gets older; it feels kind of like a scratchy wool sweater.


  •  Giant pandas, such as Bao Bao, and red pandas, such as Rusty, who rose to fame last summer when he escaped to Adams Morgan, share a name but are not related. Red pandas were the first animals named “panda.” (Want to take part in some giant vs. red rivalry? We have a song for you here.)
  • Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, Bao Bao’s mom and dad, love snow and are more active in winter. They even like to do somersaults sometimes.
  • There are 1,600 giant pandas in the wild and 346 in captivity.
  • Once thought to be marsupials, giant pandas are actually true bears.
  • Though giant pandas mostly eat bamboo, they are actually carnivores.

Want to know more about Bao Bao and her big year ahead? Get the full scoop here.