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As Yun Zi discovered in 2010, a new location can deliver better views!

As Yun Zi discovered in 2010, a new location can deliver better views!

We’re excited to announce a new home for stories and updates about the animals and conservation work of San Diego Zoo Global: the ZOONOOZ website!  For the first time, the amazing stories, photos, and videos that have only been available via our printed magazine and app will be available to just about everyone. Anyone with a web browser—on any device—can enjoy the fun, interesting, and informative tales we share.

Blogs published in 2015 have been re-homed at the new location, and this site will continue to exist as an archive of past years’ stories and information.

The search function on the new site will help you find stories about the species you particularly enjoy reading about, but we encourage everyone to explore and scroll through the topic headings—you’re sure to discover some new favorites!


Panda Xiao Liwu is Two

Xiao Liwu's birthday cake was a thing of beauty!

Xiao Liwu’s birthday cake had a beach theme, complete with tiki torches!

Our birthday boy picked an especially warm day for his party, and who knows how long his ice cake will last, but it was a thing of beauty! The two-year-old panda’s party had a beach theme, so his exhibit was decorated with cardboard beach balls, jellyfish, and seahorses dangling here and there, cardboard gift boxes, and a pile of wood shavings to represent beach sand.

The birthday cake was topped with a large blue “2,” which didn’t stay upright for long, and an orange “tiki torch” on each side. Mr. Wu seemed delighted with his surprise, climbing up on it to get every last bit of apple. When, most likely, his tongue and bottom got too cold, he retired to the log bridge to nap in the warm sun.


Our cake team spent several weeks preparing this special treat for Xiao Liwu. It was about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall, weighed over 100 pounds (45 kilograms), and had layers supported by bamboo poles. It was so colorful, too! Bright blues and oranges. Knowing that apples are “Mr. Wu’s” favorite snack, the team filled the cake with apple slices frozen in the ice blocks. Slices of carrots, yams, bamboo, and more apples were arranged in a depression on the top of the cake, which was drizzled with a yam paste “frosting.”

If he gets too warm today, he’ll still have that beautiful ice cake to sit on! Video of Xiao Liwu enjoying his morning when it becomes available, so be sure to check back. (Update: video has been added. Enjoy!)


Keeper Jennifer Becerra hangs a cardboard beach ball as part of the decorations.

Xiao Liwu 2nd birthday cake

It took three strong cake team members to bring in the 100-pound cake.

The cake awaits the Birthday Panda.

The cake awaits the Birthday Panda.

Ooh, this cake feels good!

Ooh, this cake feels good!

Happy birthday, Xiao Liwu, our Little Gift!

San Diego Zoo Global is working with a number of international partners worldwide to save species like the giant panda. You can become one of our valued partners in conservation by supporting us today!


Ready for Panda-Monium 2014?

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu can sometimes create their own panda-monium!

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu can sometimes create their own panda-monium!

Hello Panda Fans,

It is time once again to announce Panda-Monium! This will be our fifth year gathering together at the San Diego Zoo. The dates are March 21 and 22, 2014. Please see the linked poster pdf for basic information. Send an email to our address right away at pandaconvention@yahoo.com and you will receive the full information packet. All of the forms are in there for registration and T-shirts as well as info about the Meet and Greet Friday night, Zoo day and Evening Reception on Saturday, and how to make your hotel reservations if you would like to stay at our discounted rate.

Please join us and mingle with other panda fans over the weekend. We’ll have the opportunity to spend time with the pandas before the public arrives on Saturday. Suzanne Hall, senior researcher at the Giant Panda Research Station, will be our speaker during a breakfast buffet in the Rondavel. We have been honored to have Suzanne as our speaker in the past and have so enjoyed her talks and company. We learn something new every time! There is a question-and-answer period at the end of Suzanne’s presentation, so you can ask all those questions you have. The Zoo Experience includes your Zoo pass for the day.

Our Saturday Evening Celebration is at the hotel. Details are in the invitation packet about some of the awards that we will be presenting ~ but there are more! If you choose to wear black and white, you could win the Best Black & White Attire award. We will have awards and door prizes, hot and cold appetizers, a no-host bar, and lots of panda fans mingling. It is fun to put faces to names from the blog and Facebook.

Our T-shirt this year will be sapphire, same company as previously. If you are unable to attend, you may still order a T-shirt. Contact pandaconvention@yahoo.com for the details.

Space is once again limited to the first 50 people to pay AND submit their registration form. We must have BOTH the payment and the registration form for your registration to be final.

Looking forward to seeing you in San Diego!

Panda Convention Coordinators


New Condor Chick in Mexico

Here's a look at the first wild condor chick in Mexico this year!

Here’s a look at the first wild condor chick in Mexico this year!

The great gift of working at the California condor field station in Baja California, Mexico, is that every single day is a day spent with nature. A typical day starts with a 7 a.m. breakfast and a pot of coffee, just like any day in the city. Unlike the city, however, we have no commute in traffic, we don’t have the luxury of a hot shower every morning, and we never quite know what the Sierra San Pedro Martir has prepared for us each day.

Nature can be full of surprises. On our daily hike to check on the condors we may meet a coyote or mule deer, see new flowers in bloom, catch a glimpse of a mountain lion running in the distance, or disturb a flock of mountain quail into flight. It is now in late spring that we have to be very alert about forest fires. Often, we find our roads blocked with fallen pine trees.

Juan rappels to the condors' nest.

Juan rappels to the condors’ nest.

The morning of May 15, 2013, was such a day, and after navigating around a fallen tree, Juan Vargas and I started our way down the canyon to complete a nest inspection. We were carrying the climbing gear necessary to rappel close to the entrance of the condor nest. Just halfway along the route, we saw a fire northwest of the mountain, and looking to the horizon saw a second fire north of the first one, stronger and more threatening. The wind was bringing smoke to us. Immediately, we communicated by radio with the park rangers so they could give a call to the fire fighters.

The chick looks healthy and well cared for.

The chick looks healthy and well cared for.

Arriving at the edge of the cliff, Juan built the anchors and prepared the ropes to climb down to the nest. In our safety gear, we started to rappel in silence. As we approached the nest, adult male condor #269 came out from inside the cave to protect the nest from intruders. I moved toward the condor to distract him from Juan, who climbed into the cave to find a lovely, fluffy wild chick. A quick physical check was made to determine the chick was healthy and doing fine. The male condor was not happy, and despite my body blocking his view, he watched Juan through the space between my legs. In a rush, the aggressive condor pushed through my legs toward Juan to attack him. Juan was on his knees with his back facing the entrance of the cave, and luckily he heard my yelling and moved swiftly out of the condor’s reach Two years ago, Juan wasn’t that lucky—that same male condor pecked his behind!

Father condor keeps a wary eye on the researchers in his nest.

Father condor keeps a wary eye on the researchers in his nest.

With the adult male condor back in the nest, Juan and I worked quickly to install a remote camera with a motion sensor to capture the frequency of the parents’ entries to the nest. This will enable us to learn more about condor parental behavior in the wild.

On our way back to the field station, we could see the fires were under control. Exhausted, we returned like proud parents and celebrated our discovery of a new wild chick (#710). Two chicks hatched in the wild in 2012 have now fledged and are integrating well with the adult population in Baja California. This chick represents our third healthy living wild California condor offspring as well as the first chick of 2013.

Mohamed Saad is a field biologist with San Diego Zoo Global’s partner, COSTA SALVAjE.


Adoption Package for Panda Fans

The 2013 T-shirt for Panda-Monium

The 2013 T-shirt for Panda-Monium

Hi, Panda Fans!

For those who cannot attend Panda-Monium 2013 (see post, Panda-Monium, we’ve put together a way for you to feel a part of it and support the San Diego Zoo and our wonderful giant panda family at the same time. The fabulous San Diego Zoo Adoption Team has come up with another panda adoption package just for Panda-Monium 2013! For those of you who are new, the Adoption Team has been creating a special adoption package just for us for a couple of years now. The adoption is, of course, symbolic.

The special packages includes an animal fact sheet on giant pandas, panda photo, and a one-of-a-kind Panda-Monium 2013 personalized adoption certificate you can print. The photo you will receive in the download is our adorable cub, Xiao Liwu! The adoption package is just $35. All the monies collected go directly toward enrichment items for the animals at the San Diego Zoo.

This is the link to the special Panda-Monium 2013 Adoption package. The San Diego Zoo staff and animals really appreciate our support!!

The Panda-Monium 2013 Event Coordinators

UPDATE: Please know that Panda-Monium 2013 is sold out, and there are no more T-shirts available for the event. However, the San Diego Zoo is now taking reservations for our annual Black & White Overnight, which features our famous panda family! Adults-only night (for ages 21 and older) is Saturday, August 3; Family nights are offered Saturday, August 17 and August 24. More info here…


Panda Cub: Exam 19

Look what Santa brought me!

Xiao Liwu appeared to enjoy the attention and new toys he was given during his weekly exam today. The new play items included a doughnut-shaped plastic ring (perfect for panda sitting), a stick of bamboo, and the plastic ball from last week’s exam. Although sleepy when keeper Juli brought him in from the den, he soon perked up. The plastic ring was a big hit and made it easy for the Panda Team to get measurements, as the cub planted himself right in the middle of it!

“He is growing normally, and we are seeing a lot more interest in his surroundings,” said Meg Sutherland-Smith, associate director of veterinary services for the San Diego Zoo. “He saw that new toy and gravitated right to it.”

The almost five-month-old cub, who now weighs 15.4 pounds (7 kilograms), seemed quite content and only fussed when Dr. Meg opened his mouth to examine his teeth. The exam results indicated that he is growing normally, showing more movement and activity than in past weeks. With this new mobility, he is beginning to explore more of the panda living areas and has ventured outside a few times now. He should be ready for his public debut as he becomes more comfortable navigating the large exhibit space.

In the meantime, keep watching Panda Cam, as the Panda Team might put a toy or two in the den for Mr. Adorable to play with! More photos are posted in the Panda Photo Gallery.


Big Changes for Little Bears

Xiao Liwu is working on his motor skills.

In recent weeks, a lot has been happening with our bear population at the San Diego Zoo. In particular, some of our smallest bears have been undergoing significant transitions to their daily routine.

Our panda cub is preparing for his debut on exhibit. For him, this is a natural progression as his skill set advances, and he becomes more agile. A month or so ago, Xiao LiWu was a fairly immobile little bear, content to sleep for hours inside the den while his mother stretched her legs in other areas of the facility. Now, his ability to crawl has transformed into good walking skills, and he is ambling around regularly.

Recently, the cub walked, on his own, a good distance toward the north exhibit where he will first meet his admiring public. He got nearly to the door of that exhibit when he encountered a barrier: a slider door in the open position jutted into his travel path about a foot. He investigated the slider and pressed up against it, spending several minutes working the problem this obstacle presented. Ultimately, he couldn’t quite figure out how to go around, as his mother had done on her pass through the tunnel. Deterred, he turned around and headed back to the den for a nap. Before he is regularly on exhibit, he will have figured out how to overcome little adversities like this one.

Our other small bears, the sun bears, have also undergone some transitions in the last few weeks. After unsuccessful pairing attempts for Marcella and Francis earlier this year, we moved Francis to an off-exhibit area where he could receive lots of human attention and training opportunities. The quiet time away from public viewing seemed to serve him well, and he slowly settled into a nice routine. In the fall, we began to acclimate him to a new exhibit near the foot of bear canyon, an area some of our other bears had done very well in. With a slow-moving protocol, we were finally able to get Francis comfortable being on exhibit.

In December, we moved Marcella out of the exhibit on Sun Bear Trail and placed her adjacent to Francis in an exhibit on Center Street. We want her close by the male should she cycle again, but we didn’t want to move Francis away from a place he seems comfortable in. Thankfully, Marcella has been quite adaptable with moves like this, and she is settling in fine. Shortly after her move up the hill, keepers noted that Francis seemed more willing to accept Marcella in his new space. He has even started bringing her gifts, leaving his enrichment objects at the gate that separates him from his potential mate. In time, we hope that this builds into an acceptance of Marcella that promotes successful breeding between our sun bears. It is important for them to try again, as no sun bear cubs have survived more than a few days in the US since the birth of Marcella’s twin cubs nearly five years ago.

As the year winds down, we expect these recent changes will help our bears settle well into the next phases of their lives. We are hopeful that the New Year will be good to our animals, as Xiao Liwu grows into a robust little panda, and our sun bears will (fingers crossed) succeed in breeding. I would also like to extend my warm wishes to you for a happy holiday season and a peaceful transition to a new year.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Perfectly Panda.


Panda Cub: Exam 14

Xiao Liwu gets his first chew toy.

Xiao Liwu had his weekly exam Tuesday morning and his final vaccination. The cub weighed 10.8 pounds (4.9 kilograms) and measured 25.5 inches (65 centimeters) long. During the exam, a Zoo veterinarian was able to see and feel several teeth in the baby bear’s mouth.

The Panda Team set out a ball, a chew toy, and some bamboo on the exam floor so the cub would have different items to explore. Veterinarian Matt Kinney noted that while Xiao Liwu is crawling better than he has done in previous weeks, they don’t feel he is able to navigate the uneven terrain of the Zoo’s panda exhibits yet. The cub will continue to practice his crawling and walking skills in an off-exhibit suite of rooms before he and his mother, Bai Yun, are given access to a public exhibit.

More photos of the 14th exam can be viewed in our Panda Photo Gallery.

Click on chart to enlarge.


Panda-Monium 2013

The 2013 T-shirt for Panda-Monium

Hi, panda fans!

We are announcing PANDA-MONIUM 2013! The 4th Annual Panda Convention will be on March 23 and 24 in beautiful San Diego. Emailed invitations have gone out to everyone on our list from previous conventions and to anyone who has already provided us with their email address. If you have not received an invitation and are interested (and who wouldn’t be?) you can email us at pandaconvention@yahoo.com. Everything is included in the invitation package: itinerary, info on venues including the Crowne Plaza Hotel and how to reserve your discounted room, the San Diego Zoo Experience, Reception and Panda Celebration Saturday evening, registration form, and T-shirt ordering form. It is all in there.

The Zoo Experience includes a presentation by Suzanne Hall, senior researcher at the Giant Panda Research Station. We have been honored to have Suzanne in the past and have so enjoyed her talks and company. There is a question-and-answer session at the end of Suzanne’s presentation so you have the opportunity to ask her those questions you’ve been wanting answered! Of course the Zoo Experience also includes our early morning entry into the Zoo to see our beloved bears. AND we will have the opportunity to see our newest little cubbie, Xiao Liwu. There’s also a wonderful breakfast buffet in the Zoo’s Rondavel meeting room and a private Zoo bus tour. The Zoo experience includes your Zoo pass for the day.

Our Reception and Panda Celebration is Saturday evening at the Crowne Plaza. Details are in the invitation about some of the awards we will be presenting while others will be kept under wraps until the celebration begins. It’s fun to wear black and white (but not required), and you could even win Best Black & White Attire. We have awards and door prizes, hot and cold appetizers, a no-host bar, and most of all, mingling with panda fans. It is always fun to put faces to names we see on the San Diego Zoo’s panda blog and Facebook.

A photo of this year’s T-shirt is above; same heavyweight tee, same company as the last two years.

We hope you are as excited as we are in presenting this year’s package for the 4th Annual Panda Convention. We are limiting registration to 50 people this year, so sign up as soon as you can. See you in San Diego!

Donna, Laurie, Velia, Carolyn, Diana


Exam 11 and iPad Contest!

Here he comes!

Our 13-week-old panda cub had his 11th exam this morning. Senior veterinarian Tracy Clippinger, who conducted the exam, declared that his body condition was above average, with ample fat stores over his spine and a nice, full belly.

The cub is now pushing up on all four legs and getting his back feet to follow his front feet. He is able to keep his belly off the ground, which, Tracy said, “is beyond crawling, but not all the way walking.” When examining the cub’s mouth, she noted that his first tooth has pushed through the gums on the upper left side of his mouth. The active boy weighs 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms) and his overall length, from nose to tail, is approximately 23.6 inches (60 centimeters). A video clip of the exam is posted below.

Enter our Panda Cub iPad Contest!

More excitement
Our popular member magazine, ZOONOOZ, has gone digital, and today we released the November iPad edition of ZOONOOZ, which is ALL ABOUT PANDAS! It features an extensive look at the history of our panda program, the individual pandas who have lived at the Zoo, and all six of Bai Yun’s cubs. It includes exclusive photos and videos not found elsewhere. There are two versions of the ZOONOOZ app to work with all generations of the iPad, with images and videos offered in the highest quality for the iPad3 retina display. ZOONOOZ for the iPad is currently free to download.

Don’t have an iPad? Take our ZOONOOZ panda quiz for a chance to win one of six panda-cub themed iPads! Each of these iPads will be pre-loaded with our November ZOONOOZ special panda issue and an exclusive panda cub photo gallery. Visit our Panda Cub iPad Contest page to see a digital preview of the panda issue (the preview can be viewed on ALL devices, not just on an iPad) and take the Panda Quiz. The contest runs now through 11:59 p.m. PST Friday, November 16. If you already have an iPad, you can download the free ZOONOOZ iPad App and enjoy all things panda right now!

Click on chart to view in larger format.