Getting Closer to that Time

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All waited anxiously for the steel door to open Wednesday morning between a sleeping Zhen Zhen and a sleeping Bai Yun. How long would it take before they reunited? Who would instigate the reunion? Would there be a mad dash to the doorway?

Finally the door opened and…nothing happened. It was a surprise to me that it took vocalizations from Bai Yun, who wandered over after a few minutes, and a full 45 minutes for ZZ to bother coming out of her tree. Mom coaxed her over to the pile of pine shavings thoughtfully provided by the keepers for a romp and a short nursing bout, but then things changed.

Was it a teaching/learning session, with Mom biting and holding Zhen down? It seemed so and could have been rough play. Or it could be that, as the separation time increases, Bai’s tolerance is diminishing? She was pushing the cub off a log, biting her on her hind leg hard enough to provoke vocalizations, and sitting on the cub as the cub would sit on Mom. Back and forth it fluxed between cuddling play and rough play, so it’s hard to tell exactly what is going on.

It’s a challenging time for both mother and cub, and we’re all watching with interest as this separation process continues.

Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.