As I write this, it’s nearly 11 p.m. on the day of birth of our new panda cub at the San Diego Zoo. Now almost 18 hours old, the cub is settling into a nice routine with Bai Yun, developing a pattern we have seen with our other cubs and one we expect will continue for some time: periods of quiet rest lasting 20 to 45 minutes, followed by presumed nursing sessions lasting about 10 minutes, followed by 5 or more minutes of grooming the cub; then repeat, and repeat again, and again.
This rhythmic pattern demonstrates to us that all is well in the den. Bai Yun has already hit her stride with this cub, demonstrating her maternal proficiency by managing this intense period of their lives together with aplomb. The periods of quiet rest signal to us that this cub is content and satisfied with the care it is receiving. And rest allows Bai Yun to avoid exhaustion, a factor implicated in the deaths of infants. Very fatigued panda mothers have been known to crush their newborns when exhaustion overcomes them.
We are thrilled to see that Bai Yun continues to be the mother we all know that she is: competent, gentle, patient. It makes our jobs easier. And we are gratified by all of your many warm well-wishes. Thanks for caring enough about our panda program to express your enthusiasm about what is happening here. And a very special thank you to those who indicated you were moved to donate in support of our program! Your generosity is very much appreciated.
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.