First Birthday: San Diego Zoo Panda Cub Turns One

Xiao Liwu will get an ice cake and a birthday party to boot.

Mollie Rivera

INTERNATIONAL SENSATION: People seeking to create a viral hit online must constantly wonder about that elusive recipe for success. Should the meme include a joke and a gif? Is audio important? How does something take off literally overnight? We want to save those viral hit seekers a lot of angst and point them in on fuzzy, furryball-y direction: panda cubs. If ever the internet had an instant hit, that continues a year along, it was Xiao Liwu. The panda cub, born to Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo on July 29, 2012, became an online superstar weeks before anyone got a truly clear look at him -- or, for that matter, knew he was a him. And it was over five months before he tumbled out and made his public debut, a debut that happened live on the zoo's Panda Cam. Panda Cam became the must-visit daily stop for hundreds of cooing users who took to Facebook and Twitter to profess their affections for "the little gift" (which is what Mr. Wu's name translates as).

HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY, XIAO LIWU: He's notably bigger than he was a year ago -- no shocker there -- and he climbs and explores with more confidence than he did in the winter. He's about 40 pounds now, a nicely hefty cub (Mr. Wu tipped the zoo scale at just over a pound last August during his very first check-up). The San Diego Zoo's biggest celebrity is now a spritely one year old, and he'll celebrate with an ice cake on the morning of Monday, July 29. (Fun zoo fact: The Forage Team requires about a month or so to plan an elaborate ice cake, meaning that senior keeper Jennifer Becerra put the order in on July 1.)

Can't make the animal park that morning? Be sure to check Panda Cam to see if the birthday boy is having a lick or two of his frosty treat.

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