10th Exam: He Is a Heartbreaker

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panda_exam10_2This guy, he’s a heartbreaker. Oh yeah, you know I’m talking about the San Diego Zoo’s 13-week-old giant panda cub.

Today was the first time I got to see the furry ball of fluff. I was in the exam room as a Zoo PR rep writing today’s press release on the exam. I thought I was ready for it. Just like you, I’ve seen the videos. Studied the photos of him exam after exam.

Still, San Diego Zoo videographer Shea Johnson warned me: “Don’t go ‘Ohhh’ when you see him.” (That kind of spontaneous eruption of sound from someone not even involved in the exam can spoil an otherwise great video.) I told her, of course I wouldn’t. I’m tough. Heck, I once broke my leg and still kept walking.

Here's the cub's tail with its spotted tip. Ken took this photo specifically for our panda fans!

Here's the cub's tail with its spotted tip. Ken took this photo specifically for our panda fans!

But when I saw the panda cub being carried into the exam room by a keeper, all that toughness melted. He just looks so cuddly! Those tiny black ears, those eyes, all that black-and-white fluff. Then, his adorable attempts to show off his strength by sitting up. Oh yeah. This guy, he’s breaking hearts.

I restrained myself from the “ohhs” and “ahhs” I would normally have cried out. But only because Shea was close enough to kick me.

The panda cub is about as big as my one-year-old granddaughter and, seriously, I wanted to cuddle him in the same way. The panda keepers noted that he seemed much more alert for this exam than past ones. He liked to watch Shea with her video camera, or Zoo photographer Ken Bohn with his still camera. He also seemed to like watching the doctor’s stethoscope.

In Public Relations, we had hoped that we would be able to announce that the cub had gotten his teeth, but alas, when the veterinarian felt for the sharp incisors, they hadn’t yet broken through the gums. But this roly-poly boy is definitely hitting all the panda milestones. He’s gaining weight and inches. In fact, he gained more than a pound just in the last week and now weighs 11.7 pounds (5.3 kilograms).

I know as he gets older, he will lose some of that cuddliness. And as a PR rep for the Zoo, I won’t be all that disappointed. ‘Cause I’m not sure I could stand going into another exam without saying “Ohhhhhh. Ahhhhh. He’s the cutest thing ever.”

And that would definitely ruin Shea’s video.

Dani Dodge Medlin is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

Video of 10th exam…

Panda Cub Photo Gallery

Panda Cub Comparisons

Hua Mei, Day 88:
9.9 lbs (4.5 kg); 27 in (68.5 cm) long; 16 in (41 cm) chest girth

Mei Sheng, Day 92:
10.6 lbs (4.8 kg); 24 in (60 cm) long; 17 in (44 cm) chest girth

Su Lin, Day 91:
8.8 lbs (4 kg); 26 in (67 cm) long; 15 in (39 cm) chest girth

Zhen Zhen, Day 89:
10.8 lbs (4.9 kg); length and chest girth measurements not available

Cub 2009, Day 92:
11.7 lbs (5.3 kg); 25 in (63 cm) long; 16 in (41 cm) chest girth