Su Lin: No Worries!

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Don't worry about Su Lin, be happy for her!

Recent news from China regarding Su Lin has sparked a number of questions, and some concern, from our blog readers. Reports in the news have stated that Su Lin is “pregnant” and that she has been moved to a “semi-natural” enclosure, implying that her offspring may be a candidate for reintroduction. I’d like to address these concerns.

Su Lin is now living in the large, semi-natural enclosure. Rest assured, the important word in that description is “semi”! Su Lin will be monitored in order to ensure she is thriving in her new environment, albeit in a less hands-on way, and she will have an abundance of food resources from which to choose. While her new enclosure is large and naturalistic, there will be no other bears in there with her, or any other “threats” to her survival. Bamboo will be plentiful, and we are very, very confident that she will thrive, both physically and psychologically, in her expansive new digs.

Regarding reports of Su Lin being pregnant: We know that Su Lin bred naturally this year, but we still don’t know for sure if she is pregnant. That said, the track record for successful pregnancy after natural mating is very good, and so there is a high likelihood that Su Lin is pregnant. To date, the only surefire way to determine if a panda is pregnant is through ultrasound. And in cases where ultrasound has been used to confirm the presence of a fetus, it is typically about 20 days before the birth at the earliest. Most pandas give birth between July and September, and we have no reason to suspect that Su Lin would be any different. So, until we hear that Su Lin has “given birth,” anytime you read that Su Lin is “pregnant,” interpret this news as “probably pregnant.” ☺

The potentially pregnant Su Lin has been chosen to participate in this important conservation program because of her health, both physical and behavioral, and her heredity. We will continue to update everyone regarding her life and milestones, and we here at the Giant Panda Research Station will continue to be proud that a San Diego Zoo-born panda was chosen to be a part of this program. To live in such a large enclosure, with a consistent food source and the sensory diversity and excitement of a natural bamboo forest, sounds like “panda heaven.”

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Panda Conservation: Our Priority.