For many of our guests who come through the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek, this is the first time they’ve encountered a Sichuan takin. For some, the first reaction is that takins are a type of ox or elk, and guests become so surprised when they find out that this animal is from the same area of China as the giant panda. Sometimes when I walk down there in the morning and talk to some of our guests, I try to emphasize the great work we have done with breeding these animals and that they also play an important role in the ecosystem of the Sichuan mountains.
I honestly cannot think of a better representation of how beautiful these animals are than with our two youngest takins, Mei Long (Beautiful Dragon) and Bing Long (Ice Dragon) (see post Our Growing Takin Herd). For most of the morning, these almost-three-month-old takins are running around each other and jumping up and down the rock wall they have for enrichment. You really get to see them in action and see their abilities to climb in this enclosure. The babies are only about a week apart in age and are very close in weight; the only way I can really tell the difference is to look at their forehead: Bing Long has a blonde tuft of his forehead while Mei Long has, for now, a solid coat. The babies will nurse from their mothers for an average of seven to eight months but can start to mouth hay and pellets after being a couple of weeks old.
Every morning, our keepers clean the exhibits and are working on training the individual takins to go onto a scale for weights. Our keepers also look the takins over to make sure everybody is healthy and there are no injuries; having horns comes with some liabilities! The keepers then move them access to the corral, barn, or upper hillside so that they can clean the exhibit safely and in peace. The takins have a nice pool up front to rest in or cool off on hot days, and the babies love to walk into the pool and check it out.
These babies won’t stay small for long, so we hope to see you all come to see them soon!
Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Yun Zi Surpasses Dad.