Lucky Exam 13

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Victoria, in the center, holds Xiao Liwu on her lap. Panda fans everywhere turn green with envy.

Yesterday was Xiao Liwu’s 13th exam. Thirteen might be unlucky for some people, but for me it was my second opportunity to assist with an exam; my first one was six weeks ago (see post Panda Cub: Exam 7). It was definitely a different experience this time around. To start, we now perform the exam on top of a special carpet on the ground in the Giant Panda Research Station. This transition happened a few weeks ago when the young cub began attempting to crawl. He was an adorable wiggly worm as I tried to hold him still while the veterinarian and nutritionist attempted to examine and measure him.

At 15 weeks of age, he weighed 10.3 pounds (5.7 kilograms) and is 25.1 inches (64 centimeters) long (see growth chart below for a cub comparison), and our veterinarian, PK Robbins, noted that his first four teeth have erupted through his gums.

The best part is that his crawling seemed to bring him up into my lap, not away from us as one might expect. It appears that our sweet panda baby enjoys a good cuddle! At the end of the exam, we backed away to observe the improvement in his crawling with no impediments. Xiao Liwu is progressing nicely, getting his rear feet under him as he crawled. We have even witnessed him crawling back into the den, which is raised about 6 inches (15 centimeters) off the ground.

Stay tuned for future milestones!

Victoria Girdler is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

Click on chart to enlarge.

Note: Photos from the 13th exam are now posted in the Panda Photo Gallery.