Monday, January 26, 2009, was the first day for the connecting door between the left and right panda exhibit areas at the San Diego Zoo to be opened. It’s part of the separation/weaning of Zhen Zhen and Bai Yun. We give them extra space: a new place for ZZ and a familiar place from a different time for Bai.
The center door was open when Mom and cub were let out. Plenty of bamboo and treats were spread for each to enjoy. ZZ came out a bit before I arrived and made a beeline to the NEW PLACE! The Zoo is not busy at this time of the year, but the people who were there were treated to a wonderful morning. ZZ embraced this area as her best, favorite, fun playground!
She sniffed, climbed, railed, romped, stomped, scent-marked after Bai, listened, jumped up a tree when new sounds came from a different direction, investigated the hollow tree stump (inside and out), hung by her heels…This smart, independent little panda girl finally tried to nap for 45 minutes in a large tree place, but too much was going on! She and her mother would pass like ships in the night, and she would only go to the connecting door to follow Bai or for just a recheck. Move to connecting door – walk through – make U-turn – return to right viewing area…pretty amazing, not unexpected.
Tuesday morning found the young, growing cub sleeping in her “new” tree before the Zoo opened. It appears that Zhen Zhen is more than ready to step out on her own. Each of the cubs has done this differently; we’re always surprised by them, their personalities, and how they react to this phase of their lives.
Updates to follow, as we can. Meanwhile, enjoy!
Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.