About Author: Elizabeth Simmons

Posts by Elizabeth Simmons


Mr. Wu on View

T13_0244_019It has been about a month since giant pandas Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu have moved to the main viewing exhibit, and what a fun time it has been for San Diego Zoo guests and for our little panda boy! Mr. Wu has adjusted to the new exhibit very well, spending his days exploring every inch of his new habitat, from the ground to the trees. And when he explores the trees, he goes way up high!

Panda cubs are great climbers, and in the wild, high in the trees is the best place for cubs to stay safe. Mr. Wu can be seen lounging 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) up in the pine tree throughout the day. He is a strong climber and gets up and down with ease. Keepers have also recently installed grass sod in the exhibit, and Mr. Wu is having a great time ripping up the sod and playing with sod chunks.

Xiao Liwu continues to grow like a weed and weighs about 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms). He turned nine months old today! Although he is not yet eating a lot of solid food, he does like to chew on bamboo and really enjoys applesauce. Mr. Wu is still a mellow guy with a sweet personality, and we are all enjoying seeing him grow up and become a “big bear.”

Elizabeth Simmons is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Cub Learning Routine.


Panda Cub Learning Routine

Xiao Liwu is doing great!

Xiao Liwu is doing great!

It’s been almost three weeks since panda cub Xiao Liwu’s public debut, and he is doing a great job learning how to be a zoo panda. Xiao Liwu has become an early riser, waking up early with his mom, Bai Yun, ready to make his way out to the north exhibit. We have no problem shifting him out in the morning: he eagerly follows Bai Yun through the shift tunnel out to the exhibit, often passing his mother in the tunnel and arriving to the exhibit before his mom has time to catch up!

Once out, Xiao Liwu enjoys climbing on anything he can find: logs, toys, Mom. He continues to explore his environment, perfecting his climbing skills and nibbling on bamboo sticks. Such activity makes our boy sleepy, so Xiao Liwu tends to find a nice place to nap mid-morning. Oftentimes he ends up choosing the moat, much to the dismay of his fans, since he isn’t visible down there (unless you’re watching on Panda Cam). But lately, little Wu has been soaking up the sun on the climbing structure or napping on top of the log.

Sitting in the sun makes a panda quite hot, and you may notice Xiao Liwu panting. He will learn to seek out shade when he gets hot; this is a process all of our babies have gone through. Xiao Liwu does love water, and we have seen him playing in his water tub and the drinker. Soon we will fill the pool with a small amount of water for him to splash around in.

After a full day out on exhibit, our biggest challenge has been getting little Xiao Liwu back into his bedroom in the afternoon. Bai Yun is always ready to shift in for dinner; Mr. Wu is usually sacked out in the moat or in the climbing structure in the afternoon. Because of her trust in her keepers, we are fortunate to be able to shift Bai Yun into her bedroom for dinner without her son, giving keepers the opportunity to wake Xiao Liwu up and encourage him to come in.

Once awake and in the shift tunnel, Mr. Wu tends to roll around and play in the tunnel on his way to his mother. Bai Yun waits patiently in back for her son to make his way in. She seems to know he needs to learn to shift in as well as he shifts out in the morning.

All in all, our panda boy is doing an excellent job learning to be a zoo panda, and we are very proud of him and his amazing mother.

Elizabeth Simmons is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Big Day for Mr. Wu.


Big Day for Mr. Wu

Mr. Wu explores his habitat while Zoo employees and media catch a glimpse.

Mr. Wu explores his habitat while Zoo employees and media catch a glimpse.

After five long months of waiting, the day has finally come! Xiao Liwu will greet his adoring fans tomorrow, January 10, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. It is an exciting time for all of us!

Xiao Liwu has been making his way out to the north exhibit with his mother for a few weeks now. Each adventure out to the exhibit has given our little guy time to practice his climbing skills and get the lay of the land. Xiao Liwu has explored every inch of the exhibit, from the climbing structure to the moat, from the empty pool to the bushes and stumps. He has made his way up to the high branches of the climbing structure and continues to learn how to get down: backward, forward, or hang and drop, sometimes taking quite a tumble! Little Xiao Liwu reminds us that panda babies are made to bounce!

During his practice outings, we have discovered that Xiao Liwu’s favorite place to nap is in the moat. We covered the bottom of the moat with hay to act as a cushion in case of a panda spill; sure enough, Xiao Liwu made his way down there and decided that it is the perfect place for a snooze after a play session. If you come to visit and don’t see our little star, he is most likely napping at the bottom of the moat. If only he knew that he has so many admirers waiting to see him in the fur!

Mr. Wu, as we affectionately call him, will be on display for a couple hours in the mornings for the first few weeks. This will give him time to acclimate to the sights and sounds of our guests. Although he is used to his keepers, Xiao Liwu has never seen large crowds of people, and he will need time to get used to his fans. As he gets more comfortable being on exhibit, we will increase viewing hours.

As one of his caretakers, I am excited to see how our little guy will react to seeing his adoring fans. He did great at the employee and media preview today! Knowing his easy-going personality, I’m pretty sure Xiao Liwu will smile big for the cameras, climb up to a high branch to hang, drop, or somersault, and retire to the moat for a nap.

Elizabeth Simmons is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Cub: Exam 6.


Panda Cub: Exam 6

Hello, world!

Today our little panda boy had his sixth exam. This was especially exciting for me, as it was MY first panda cub exam. Our chubby cubbie weighed in at 5.8 pounds (2.64 kilograms)—almost a pound more than last week. It is amazing how quickly this little guy is growing!

Our little buddy was a teeny bit fussy at the beginning of the exam, but a few chin scratches later he was sleeping like a baby. Baby panda boy received his first vaccination today as well. He was a super star and didn’t make a sound during the injection.  What a brave little man he is!

Holding the cub for the first time was a truly amazing experience for me- he is so fluffy and strong!  Although he may look helpless and fragile in the den, let me assure you that this baby panda is a little tank. Mom and baby are bonding more and more every day. Mom Bai Yun plays with her little baby, spinning him around and carrying him out to her bedroom on a regular basis now.  Although this play can look rough at times, this is perfectly normal for a panda mom and baby.  Our little guy is strong, and Bai Yun is an experienced mother who has successfully raised five cubs already. Soon enough our little guy will be up and running around. In fact, we have seen him practicing his crawling skills recently!

I can’t wait to see our little star out on exhibit this winter.

Elizabeth Simmons is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

More images can be found in our Panda Gallery.

Click to enlarge chart.