Panda Cub: Exam 16

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His belly is still round and adorable!

Xiao Liwu didn’t quite gain a half pound since last week’s exam. At his 16th exam yesterday, he weighed in at 12.5 pounds (5.7 kilograms) compared to 12.1 on Thursday. Now if it were me, that would be great news for my waistline! But if you’re a growing giant panda cub, one might wonder why that round belly didn’t grow plumper? Don’t fret: our “little gift” is simply growing into his skin. Zoo Nutritionist Jennifer Parsons and Zoo Veterinarian Tracy Clippinger gave the cub “two paws up” on his health check up. I gave him two thumbs up on the cute factor!

Jennifer told us after the exam that Xiao Liwu is becoming more muscular, so the slight weight gain is turning into muscle. Tracy described it this way: his pudgy baby fat is thinning to trim toddler muscles. Less fat means more muscles, which translate to active walking instead of crawling. Good news for panda fans, because the better he walks, the closer he is to making his public debut. But, before you get too excited, he’s not quite there yet. While watching Panda Cam, I’ve observed Bai Yun drag our little gift back to the den many a time. Although they are taking excursions to other rooms, his more-muscular legs are not quite strong enough for the exhibit just yet.

Xiao Liwu is becoming more and more active. He didn’t want to sit still during the exam, but he also wasn’t trying to get away from the Panda Team. Rather, he just wanted their attention. I should have focused on Jennifer’s measurements, taking notes about his body length (26.7 inches or 68 centimeters) from nose to tail, if you really want to know), but instead, I’m cooing in the back of the room. My heart melts every time he crawls into their lap or when he flips on his back like he did today. Like many of you, I’d like to reach out and scratch that fuzzy belly, which, by the way, still looks pretty round.

But Xiao Liwu is not here for me to talk baby talk to, so I refocus and learn from Tracy that the kiddo has eight teeth now. His canines are very apparent now. He also has more teeth that are just below the gum line. Those teeth are there for future use. He is not eating bamboo or any other food yet; he is solely dependent on mother’s milk for now. That nutritious milk that Bai Yun supplies is all he needs to continue to grow into those paws. His back left paw measured 4.7 inches (12 cm) long today. I particularly like to see his rear end as he walks, because he has a little patch of white hairs on one of his rear legs. For me, that will be one of those distinguishing features that will help me identify him when he reaches adult size; that is, if he keeps the white patch.

For now, my memories of this little gift will be how comfortable he is among the Panda Team. After the examination was complete, Xiao Liwu wobbled to the middle of the floor in between the team, laid down, and closed his eyes, sweet serenity amid the people who watch over his health day in and day out.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, You May Call Her Qinisa.

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