As of the evening of August 11, Bai Yun has made a total of six den departures. In the afternoon of August 10, she enjoyed her first bites of bamboo since before the birth of the cub. For this, she must leave the den, travel through her bedroom, and enter her outdoor sunroom. Here, the keepers leave fresh snippets of choice bamboo stem and leaf for her.
Keepers feed her far from her den intentionally. There is a door they can close between the bedroom and sunroom to allow the keeper safe entry to the area to place her food and remove any debris or feces Bai Yun leaves behind. The den door itself can close, too, but staff won’t attempt to move that door until much later in the denning phase, when Bai Yun is clear of this most sensitive time. The quiet zone is still in effect, and we are disturbing her as little as possible to protect the infant panda and ensure that Bai Yun is not stressed.
During these initial feedings, Bai Yun spends only a few minutes ingesting bamboo. She hasn’t been out of the den for more than eight minutes in one trip thus far. Even if the cub is relatively quiet, she seems not to push the boundaries too much yet. It will take her some time to be back to her usual hour-long bamboo feasts.
Bai Yun’s increasingly frequent forays will leave the cub exposed to the Panda Cam viewers. See if you can spot the black saddle and ears starting to color up. This change in color is actually a pigmentation change of the skin, as the hair-like fur on the infant is still a snowy white. The fur is very sparse yet. Look also for signs of Bai Yun’s quality mothering: little rolls of flesh developing behind the neck, and a full, round belly indicating a well-fed baby. All are indicators to us that things in the den are going very well indeed.
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.