Panda Cub: Exam 18

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It’s mine! You can’t have it!

Today was our 18th cub exam, and while it’s hard to believe that Xiao Liwu gets cuter with every exam, inevitably he does! Every week. Without fail. I don’t know how he’s going to keep this up…being this cute for this long, it must take a lot of endurance.

This morning, to up the cute factor, he was given two balls, bamboo, and a limb trimmed from a tree. He’d seen the limb before, and the bamboo, but that ball…that is what kept his attention during the whole exam. He pulled it close, wrapped all his paws around it, and sat with it. It was his, and he wasn’t giving it up. Well, until he tried to climb over it or move with it, and then it would pop out of his paws and roll away. Keepers would roll it back to him and this “game” kept him engaged during almost the entire exam.

Jennifer Parsons, a nutritionist taking his measurements, had to slide her tape measure between the ball and his chin to measure his neck girth. And again, between the ball and his tummy to measure the girth of his abdomen. And while he was wrapped, content, around that ball, she was able to take measurements around his face without his usual protests. He weighed 14.5 pounds (6.6 kilograms) and is 29 inches long (74 centimeters) from nose to tail.

The exam went very quickly today because the cub was focused on his ball. Vets were able to check him over and everything looked in tip-top shape.

And because I know you’d want to know, I asked about Xiao Liwu’s public debut. And the animal care staff tell me that it boils down to this: he has to be able to climb, and he has to follow his mother consistently.

The cub has shown a slight interest in one of the small climbing structures in the sun room but hasn’t tried out any other climbing in the garden room. And right now, he’s more than content to stay in the den when Bai Yun ventures into other areas of the “panda suite” they share. This is a natural instinct in bear cubs: staying close to their mother is what keeps them safe in the wild. At the San Diego Zoo, staying close to mother is what makes it possible for keepers to get Mom and baby into and out of the exhibit.

So we wait.

Good thing he’s so dang cute!

Jenny Mehlow is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Panda Cub Exam 5: Say Aww.