Photos: Panda cub Bei Bei is thriving ahead of public debut

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The youngest giant panda cub at the National Zoo is ready for his close-up.

Bei Bei will make his public debut Jan. 16. During an audience with a small news media contingent Monday, he was so relaxed that he fell asleep and drooled on an examination table.

At nearly 4 months old, Bei Bei weighs more than 17 pounds and is gaining about a pound a week. He’s bigger than his older siblings were at the same age.

Zookeepers say it’s important for Bei Bei to feel comfortable around and in front of people. Pandas are endangered, and when he turns 4, Bei Bei will move to China to join the breeding program there. He’s training for his only job: helping to save his species.

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