Pandas: Evening Antics

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Gao Gao enjoys a summer's evening during Nighttime Zoo.

Gao Gao enjoys a summer's evening during Nighttime Zoo.

As we get closer to the ending of Nighttime Zoo, there are many people who come to the giant panda exhibit to see the night activity. Su Lin and Zhen Zhen have spent most of the summer on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station, and they’ve each had days where they entertain and days where they’re a little sleepy. But each has a different activity level due to hormones, growth, and general behavior.

Zhen Zhen has always been more active during the day, sometimes playing and running around, sometimes eating for a while and then taking a nap where everyone can see her. At night while the Panda Station is still open, we see her nap for a little bit and wake up to begin her normal eating habits. It really isn’t often that we see Zhen Zhen extremely active at night. She is very much like our Gao Gao in her eating habits: eat all you can, nap for as long as you want, wake up, and do it again.

Su Lin, on the other hand, has done her best to stay in the shade during the day and wait out the heat. Right now she weighs about 200 pounds with about 3 inches of fur; the front left corner against the cool wall has been her first choice when it’s time to nap. I can honestly say that at night she does get a little more active. She not only eats where the public easily views her, but even puts on a show for our guests. Often in the evening, she begins to climb trees to look out into the crowd and get a good whiff of what people are wearing. Running around and playing with enrichment that keepers have put out for her is also very typical of her evening behavior.

Little cubbie on August 20, 2009.

Little cubbie on August 20, 2009.

It’s been fun to watch them as they get older and see how they are changing physically as well. The girls definitely have different traits: Zhen Zhen has a face that looks more like Gao Gao but has a tail like Bai Yun; Su Lin, I recently noticed, has a tail just like Gao Gao’s: long and a little narrow. Both are growing and getting bigger, and it will be exciting to see Bai Yun with her new cub when they make their debut in a few months.

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

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