14th Exam: Panda Star

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panda_exam14Keeper Kathy Hawk had her hands full this morning: during Yun Zi’s weekly exam, it was all she could do to keep a good grip on him! The panda keepers knew that the cub was getting too mobile to examine him on the table any more, so they rolled out the carpet this week to give Yun Zi more space to move around. Then, when Kathy set him down, all he wanted to do was move! Video now posted!

That 5 x 7 carpet just couldn’t contain him. He headed to the edge and walked toward the video camera. When Kathy picked him up to redirect him to the center of the carpet, he just turned right back around and headed to the light on the top of the camera. We know that he’s a star, but it looks like he’s a natural in front of the camera, too!

After keepers and vets let him crawl around a bit, they attempted an exam. But Yun Zi just wasn’t that into it. With the exam taking place on the floor, and Yun Zi being such a wiggle worm, I didn’t really get to see all of his great expressions. I just saw his raw determination to do what he wanted to do the way he wanted to do it. He was squeaking as Kathy held him while veterinarian Tracy Clippinger listened to his heart and lungs. And the squeaking continued when they held him to get a look at his ears and eyes. He has a few more teeth, and when Tracy was feeling around his mouth she assured us that he had a pretty good bite now.

In past exams, if Bai Yun hears her cub squeaking or give a bark during the cub exams, keepers can see her react on the panda monitors. With the cub so vocal today, keepers who were not participating in the exam kept a close eye on the monitors to see how Bai was doing. And how did she react? Well, let’s just say that she didn’t let baby’s squeals get between her and her bamboo. She kept sitting in her exhibit, leaning against a rock, chomping away. She didn’t seem fazed by any of Yun Zi’s squeals.

I didn’t take my own notes on his weight, lengths or girth (I’ll let the moderator add that at the end of this blog); I was just enjoying listening to his squeals and watching Kathy and Tracy try to wrangle a 17-week old panda. It was a lot like me trying to hold my cat, Austin, when he knows that I’m picking him up to carry him inside the house. He tries to find any way to go back to what he was doing – over my shoulder, under my arm, or just trying to take a flying forward leap. But despite Yun Zi’s best efforts and vocal protests, Kathy and Tracy held onto him and made it through the exam, even if they did have to cut it a bit short due to excessive wiggling.

Everything else in his development is looking good. Oh, I did note one measurement: for all those still enthralled with his tail, it still measures 7 centimeters (2.7 inches) and the black spot is still there. His leg muscles are coming along, and you’ll see in the video (that should be up on Friday) that he’s a panda on the move who wants to be heard!

After the quick exam, Kathy and Tracy let him crawl around on the carpet for a few more minutes. He kept heading toward the edge of the carpet and the lights on the camera – like a moth to a flame. He squealed some more as Kathy carried him back to his den. But when I checked Panda Cam on my way out of the Giant Panda Research Station 15 minutes later, he was already asleep and, I like to imagine, dreaming little panda dreams.

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

Note: Yun Zi weighed 15.9 pounds (7.2 kilograms).

Here’s a measurement comparison of our five panda cubs:

Hua Mei, age 124 days:
15.2 lbs (6.9 kg); 27.4 in (69.6 cm) long

Mei Sheng, age 121 days:
14.3 lbs (6.5 kg); 26.2 (66.5 cm) long

Su Lin, age 119 days:
11.9 lbs (5.4 kg); 27.1 in (69 cm) long

Zhen Zhen, age 124 days:
15.4 lbs (7.0 kg); 29.9 in (76 cm) long

Yun Zi, age 120 days:
15.9 lbs (7.2 kg); 27.5 in (70 cm) long