Thursday, December 18, was certainly a momentous day for panda fans in San Diego and elsewhere as the new loan agreement was signed, insuring that the pandas would be in residence at the San Diego Zoo for another five years. In anticipation of this day, lots of new plantings were placed in both of the viewing areas, in addition to the previously described modifications to the “lair” in the left-hand enclosure (see Ellie’s previous blog, New Digs for Pandas). And yes, Zhen Zhen is already demolishing some of the plantings, even as more have been added over the last week.
But was it the new shrubs or a hint of the excitement in the air? Early visitors (and staff) were treated that morning to a display of climbing and cavorting by Gao Gao the likes of which we haven’t seen outside of mating season (and yes, it’s way too early here in San Diego, based on our 12-year history). Trotting around the exhibit, vocalizing in several ways, and then climbing up the trees and shaking them, it was fun, exciting and very “un-Gao Gao.” There was no discernable (to me or the observers) noise in the area, but there was a Zoo photographer there to capture this unusual sight. It wasn’t raining or windy, no colder than earlier in the week.
I’d like to think (and I’m anthropomorphizing here!) that it was Gao’s little personal celebration of his extended stay. In reality he’d have no way of “knowing” anything about the human activities surrounding his place of residence, but it was still quite a coincidence….
Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.