Bao Bao The Debutante Panda, And Other Brand-New Zoo Animals

When it comes to debuts, it's time for this adorable four-month-old baby panda to take a Bao: This Smithsonian-Zoo-based bundle of joy, Bao Bao, is getting ready to meet her adoring public. She'll be frolicking in public zoo spaces from Jan. 18, following a practice meet-the-press run Monday, where everybody loved her. Obviously.

Being a panda seems pretty ideal: "She sleeps about half the day and plays while she's awake, rolling and tumbling on her head, gnawing on bamboo and poking at her mother," according to the AP. It's like college, but for a whole lifetime.

Here's to hoping Bao Bao does well at Smithsonian Zoo ... or, at least better than some of the zoo's other animals. A recent spike in the number of animal deaths prompted an inquiry into animal care, and the report concluded that animal services at Smithsonian Zoo were "severely lacking." Now, a congressional review of the zoo's animal care could be on its way.

In the meantime, even Hugh Jackman got a chance to meet Bao Bao.

Bao Bao even clambers over rocks adorably.

Smithsonian's National Zoo on YouTube

Wanna meet the other animals making their debut this holiday season? Of course you do.

1. Polar Bear Patches

Patches the polar bear made her debut on Christmas Day at the North Carolina Zoological Park, settling gracefully into her life in her $8.5-million enclosure. The 700-pound bear is the first to grace the zoo since its last polar bear, Wilhelm, stopped eating when he was in his temporary residence at the Milwaukee Zoo (the N.C. enclosure was undergoing renovation) and had to be put down in October.

“We’re tickled about having a bear back here,” said Patches' animal management supervisor, Jeff Owen.

2. Big-Headed Turtles

Five Chinese big-headed turtles — yup, that's their real name — were born at Prospect Park Zoo in December, the first time the species has successfully procreated in an accredited zoo.

And yes, their heads really are large — and now there are 15 of them bobbing around in Brooklyn.

Wall Street Journal on YouTube

“With so many of the world’s freshwater turtles and tortoises facing extinction, these hatchlings represent significant progress for the conservation of the species,” said Denise McClean, director of the zoo.

3. The Oldest Gorilla on Record

Colo, the first gorilla ever born in a zoo, turned 57 recently at Ohio's Columbus Zoo. A strict vegan, Colo received presents as befits her age and status: tomatoes, berries, and cake. She's the oldest gorilla on record and can boast progeny across the nation.

Missy French on YouTube

Some people think Colo could be psychic, and have made her predict Mega Millions lottery numbers and tournament winners ahead of time. Which is, um, interesting.

Regardless. All hail Queen Colo.

4. Tasmanian Devils

After a contagious form of cancer plummeted the indigenous Tasmanian-devil population by 80 percent, Denmark bred the first Tasmanian devils outside of Australia.

At the Copenhagen Zoo, two female devils gave birth to seven joeys, adding to the scant population of 23 joeys outside of Oz. The zoo plans to start a devil-handling school, which sounds a lot more interesting than Algebra 201.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Zoo received four of the little devils.

Feisty things.

YouTube

And if real zoos aren't your thing? Don't worry — there's always the robot petting zoo!

In the meantime, try never to get drunk and wander into an elephant enclosure, like a woman did at the Denver Zoo over Christmas. Not a story for the grandchildren.

Images: Twitter/ABQ BioPark/TiffanyAshton3