Big Steps Toward Independence

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Look, Ma, no paws!

Giant panda Yun Zi is doing great during the slow, step-by-step separation process. Our once-little guy has been such an independent bear! The other panda narrators say that when it comes to eating bamboo, he is one of the most advanced cubs they have ever seen at the San Diego Zoo, with the ability to eat the culm of the larger pieces of bamboo at an early age. Yun Zi often comfortably rests on his log perch at lofty heights during the day, and Zoo guests marvel at how much he has grown in the last 18 months.

As panda researcher Suzanne Hall said in her post, Moving Right Along, even when we give our youngster and his mother, Bai Yun, the opportunity to spend time together, they often just choose to do their own thing. Tuesday afternoon, Yun Zi was having a great time knocking apples, carrots, yams, and leaf eater biscuits from his giant panda toy. The keepers cleverly hung this toy from his favorite log, of course! Yunior (Yun Zi) was confidently navigating the right-hand enclosure to look for more treats after his moment of frolic was over, and Bai Yun only seemed concerned with devouring the lunch portion of her bamboo.

All is going as well as the Panda Team has hoped for, and we are so proud of our (not so little anymore) guy. Yun Zi is already over 91 pounds (41 kilograms) and is getting bigger every day. Can you believe he was the size of a stick of butter when he was first born? This is totally normal, though, for a panda cub; after all, they can grow to be 600 times their birth weight by the time they are 18 months old. Still, it is hard to believe that one day Yun Zi will be around 300 pounds (136 kilograms). Our boy bear still has plenty of growing to do, but he is definitely on the right track.

Michelle Penick is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Fond Panda Memories.

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