Decision Maker Bai Yun

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Bai with a young Zhen Zhen

We have had five giant pandas born at the San Diego Zoo, and with each cub we are learning more and more about this unique bear! One thing that we know for sure is that panda mother Bai Yun knows what she is doing, and she’s the best one to make decisions for her cubs while each is under her care. What decisions does she make? Well, lots of them!

From the beginning it has been Bai Yun that has decided when each cub can come out of the den for the first time, when to encourage her cub to climb, and when that cub is ready to go! One of the things our Panda Team observers do is document behaviors in this process. As a panda narrator, I educate guests about giant pandas and what we do at the Giant Panda Research Station, but I also did keeper work. Having that opportunity to watch the pandas for hours at a time as a narrator helped me when I worked with the pandas as a keeper, and I was able to share information that I had observed with our Panda Team.

I was recently asked by Zoo guests if I thought Bai Yun will wean Yun Zi earlier than her previous cubs. There is no simple answer to this. Over the next few months we will be watching and documenting Bai Yun’s behavior as usual. Right now, even though she does sometimes redirect Yun Zi from nursing, she eventually does let him nurse. Bai Yun is experienced and comfortable, but never negligent, with her cubs!

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