New Scents for Pandas

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Gao Gao: a panda and his bamboo

The keepers at the San Diego Zoo are dedicated to enriching our animals’ lives and challenging them to exhibit their best abilities on a daily basis. A very common way of exercising our pandas’ sense of smell is to add new smells to their exhibit. Recently, one of the keepers added rosemary powder to the exhibit, and it certainly paid off for our Panda Trek visitors. Yun Zi constantly rolled in the powder and covered his entire body. Not every scent will inspire this same reaction; in fact, if the panda doesn’t like the scent at all, quite often they will completely ignore it and move on to other enrichment in the exhibit.

Keepers are always excited to have new scents and spices to try with their animals. Gao Gao had a lot of fun with apple-pie spice: he wore himself out rolling in it and fell asleep in the spice that the keeper had put out for him. Gao Gao is one of our toughest critics regarding what scents we put out and often shows that he prefers a stronger, rather than subtle, smell.

Yun Zi: How much longer will his hammock last?

Another way our keepers keep the animals busy is changing the exhibit, and sometimes the animals themselves let us know that an object in their exhibit needs to go. On Thursday, December 6, Yun Zi was climbing around on his logs right before his final feeding of the day. He was being his normal, active self, and decided to bounce on part of his climbing structure, breaking the end off! Being a bear, Yun Zi is very good at figuring out how to change things in the exhibit and even move them around. Our keepers have come to know that when cleaning up after Yun Zi, you really don’t know what to expect on a daily basis.

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Nighttime Pandas.

Note: Plans are underway for the installation of Yun Zi’s artificial tree, which many of you helped to fund. That should happen in just a few months!