Whenever I think of fall, trees come to mind. Changing leaves start falling from their lofty branches down to earth as Mother Nature prepares the world for winter. Pandas are arboreal as youngsters, but as adults they are primarily ground dwelling. Still, each member of our panda family uses trees in different ways.
Gao Gao, our daddy panda, does not climb high trees very often, but he does like to use a tree as a backrest as he tears through his bamboo with Zen-like concentration. He also is famous for his handstands. Gao Gao does a handstand to put his scent mark as high as he can on a tree to let everyone know he’s been there.
Our mother bear, Bai Yun, has been climbing especially high in her tree lately. She uses it as a perfect lookout to see what the keepers are up to. You see, it is very important to know where the bringers-of-all-things-good are at all times! Bai Yun also loves to use her climbing structure in the middle of her exhibit as the perfect spot for a post-bamboo nap.
Yun Zi has many uses for his trees. He does love to sleep up high most of the time since he is still fairly young, but that’s the mellowest activity you will observe from him. Yun Zi has been romping around in typical teenager fashion, to the delight of our Zoo guests as of late, and this includes hanging upside down from his climbing structure, scent marking branches, and flopping his whole body atop the small elm tree in his exhibit, which has barely been able to withstand his destruction. Yun Zi also takes delight in ripping branches from this same elm and transporting them to various other parts of this exhibit. He reminds us of his older sister, Su Lin, whom we affectionately called “the redecorating diva.”
And then there is the artificial tree. The Zoo is very close to having enough funds to construct a new cement climbing tree in Yun Zi’s enclosure. We are just a few thousand dollars away from reaching our goal. If you enjoy watching our pandas in the trees, just image watching Yun Zi romp in a new, Yun-proof tree. Now that is something I am really looking forward to!
Michelle Penick is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, So Long, Summer.
If you’d like to contribute $10 (or more) toward that new tree for Yun Zi, please visit our Animal Care Wish List.