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National Zoo celebrates 125th birthday

Sunday - 3/2/2014, 4:44am  ET

zoo_640 (AP)
Bao Bao, the four and a half month old giant panda cub, nibbles on her mother Mei Xiang in their indoor habitat at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in January (AP)

WASHINGTON --The National Zoo is celebrating a big birthday Sunday.

It was 125 years ago, March 2, 1889, that President Grover Cleveland signed the bill establishing the zoo, which has become a major research center and tourist attraction for visitors all over the world.

"I've been coming here ever since I was a kid," said George Mason University student Andrew Beichler, who noted his trip for class Saturday was the first time he'd been there without family.

"I was really surprised how easy it was. I had to bug my parents all the time as a kid like I wanna' go to the zoo! I wanna' go to the zoo, I wanna' go to the zoo', with this idea it's this faraway place, but it's really right in my backyard, it's great," he said.

As usual, the visitor favorites are the pandas, even though many missed the chance this birthday weekend to see baby Bao Bao when she decided to move in and out of public view.

In honor of the zoo's 125th birthday, a special American bison exhibit is scheduled to open this summer.

The zoo says its first bison were exhibited on the National Mall, before being moved to the zoo's current site in Rock Creek Park in 1891.

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