Bei Bei, the giant panda cub, at the National Zoo. (Courtesy of the National Zoo)

Bei Bei, the giant panda cub at the National Zoo, is said to be “bright, alert and responsive” after surgery to remove a large piece of bamboo stuck in his intestine.

The 1-year-old cub is getting his antibiotics and antacids via sweet potatoes, zoo staff said on Monday. And bamboo is not in his diet for now as it is “still too hard for him to digest.” He is “successfully nursing” and eating apples and softened biscuits.

Bei Bei underwent emergency surgery Friday after a life-endangering blockage was found in his intestine.

In a statement, the zoo said, “during this period of recovery, nursing provides some extra comfort.” But they said Bei Bei depends on “very little milk” from his mother, Mei Xiang. He gets most of his nutrition from solid foods.

Visitors won’t be able to see him as the panda house is closed to give him and his mother “quiet during treatment and recovery,” officials at the zoo said.


Bei Bei, the giant panda cub. (Courtesy of Skip Brown)

Zoo officials had noticed on Thursday that Bei Bei was behaving oddly, sleeping more than usual and showing little interest in food. He also seemed nauseous and threw up twice.

The cub was taken to the zoo’s on-site veterinary hospital Friday morning and underwent an ultrasound screening. An endoscopic exam found a dense mass of bamboo the size of a lemon atop his small intestine. The bamboo had been only partially digested. Such a blockage is a rare ailment for giant pandas, officials said. Quick-thinking and expert care, they said, is what likely saved Bei Bei’s life.

While Bei Bei recovers, other pandas Bao Bao and Tian Tian can be seen in their outdoor yard areas on the zoo’s panda cameras.

Staff writer T. Rees Shapiro contributed to this report.