We will be putting you to the test over the next few weeks. Our pandas will be moving about the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station every few days, and which bear is on which camera will change each time they move. It’s unlikely our intrepid moderator will be able to keep up with all of the rapid changes, so you will have to use your panda identification skills to help figure out which of our black-and-white bears you are currently seeing on the Panda Cam.
Why are we playing round robin with the pandas? It’s because our new bamboo cooler is ready for installation. Thanks to the generous support of you, our panda fans, our urgent plea for funding for a new bamboo cooler was answered. But there is still a lot of work to be done before the pandas can enjoy fresh bamboo straight out of the new cooler you provided for them.
A replacement cooler has been selected, and it’s time to prepare the site where the bamboo chiller will live. This involves many steps, including removal of the old coolers, demolition of the concrete in the area in order to prepare a new foundation for the new cooler, running the utilities to just the right spot, etc. Some of this work involves the use of equipment such as jackhammers, so during the loud portions of the process we will be moving Bai Yun and Gao Gao away from the noise source.
Bai and Gao will make their first move to the classroom area on Monday morning. The regular viewing area will be closed, since there won’t be any bears in that area anyway. Zoo guests will be able to view one of our adult bears in the classroom, and Su Lin and Zhen will be ensconced in their bedroom/garden room area. It will be a bit cozy in the top portion of our facility for a few days, but we feel this is in the best interest of all the animals so as to remove them from the vicinity of any potential stressors. Once the loud portion of this phase of work is complete, Bai and Gao will probably return to their regular exhibit spaces.
Once the site is ready to accept the new cooler, we will be ready to crane the unit into the facility. This should happen around the end of the month. It might necessitate another move to the classroom for our adult bears, but they are troopers who will be fine with this stimulation. Both of them have spent plenty of time in those areas over the years, and taking a few days’ hiatus from the lower areas should work out fine…
…unless, of course, Bai Yun says otherwise. If she shows any signs of estrus whatsoever—and we are monitoring hormones in order to get as early a warning sign as possible—the whole project puts on the breaks and waits. Once again, Momma bear rules.
Thanks again to everyone who helped us make this new cooler a reality. Soon, the bears will be benefiting from your generosity directly. In the meantime, have fun playing panda roulette!
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for San Diego Zoo Conservation Research.