Su Lin Antics

Who can keep track of the antics of the most marvelous Su Lin? She has, as visitors have seen over these last few weeks, been in a spurt of activity, at least in panda terms. Once or twice a day sh’e been revving up to have a fine old time, climbing the structures, hanging upside down, racing around the exhibit, grabbing things she shouldn’t, trying to figure out how to get over the back wall, bouncing on branches too close to the fence (so of course, the saws have come out).

With Cubbie (4 weeks old today, thank you) in the den, chainsaws are not usable in that area, and it has been a challenge to modify Su Lin’s enclosure by hand, but our talented team has done it…and done it again a few days later. Not all the changes have been reactive, though. Some nice fresh topsoil as been added to the side, the better to dirt-bathe in, and Su has been checking that out.

Why the sudden burst of energy? No one is sure. As a maturing female, hormones are always a possibility. We suspected the cooler weather of a few weeks ago, but the recent heat wave negated that as a possibility (although the shortening days and something more akin to Circadian, or seasonal, day/night-length issues may be in play here). Su Lin’s play and interest are often directed toward the back fence; she’s always anxious for keeper interaction, whatever the form, more so than any of the other bears, except her father. The girl just loves company, at least when she feels like playing. Whatever the reason, it’s been fun to watch.

Zhen Zhen continues to nap in her elm tree and charm visitors with her mini-me style of eating. Her weight approaches 115 pounds (52 kilograms), so she is still visibly smaller than her 200-pound (91-kilograms) sister, and she retains that cub-like quality to her movements. And it appears that ZZ has a new and never-before seen talent. But more about that another time!

And Gao? Word is he’s doing just fine. While he’s in an out-of-view area, he can still be heard behind the wall, vigorously munching bamboo for extended periods, in typical Gao Gao fashion, each morning and afternoon. Go, Gao!

Meanwhile, back in the den, you’ve all seen how the cub is growing round and plump> Everyone is anxious for that first physical and peek. The keepers are watching Bai carefully and working with her to ensure that this can take place sooner rather than later, but as always it’s up to Mom. But boy or girl? We’ll have to wait and see.

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

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