The New Normal?

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Bai Yun

Bai Yun

It’s a brand-new week here at the Giant Panda Research Station at the San Diego Zoo, and “The Ladies” are on view this week. It seems odd to be referring to Su Lin that way, but her estrus is over. To my knowledge, there’s been no discussion of moving or mating Su Lin next year thus far. A year is a long way off in the life of a panda, and it will be about that long before she’s once again having a breeding cycle, so, as with most things here, it’s going to be “wait and see.”

Bai may remain in “her” exhibit until and unless she shows signs of pregnancy. Like Su Lin, estrus is soooo over, so they are both back to the normal eat-and-sleep thing. It’s the calm before the storm; long-time panda fans will recall how busy things can get as we move Bai Yun into seclusion, await a birth, and begin to move animals around. It can be many weeks or even months before Bai Yun shows any signs of pregnancy, pseudo or real, but be assured that she’ll be carefully monitored.

The final phase of chiller installation is underway, so it shouldn’t be long now. What noise there is back there is diminished by the increase in traffic up and down Panda Canyon as final touches are put on our newest exhibit, Elephant Odyssey. It’s located up above the back of the panda area, so lots of trucks are moving through the canyon to get there. As you would expect, Bai is pretty much oblivious to disruption; Su Lin is reacting a little, but still managed to get her “beauty sleep” this morning. It’s only for a few more weeks, and we’re all anxious to meet and greet the new residents as they are moved in up there and see the finished product. Can the pandas hear their new Asian elephant neighbors? It’s an interesting question: with their acute hearing, they probably can, but will soon come to accept those sounds, like those of their other neighbors, as part of their normal auditory environment.

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