About Author: Ina Saliklis

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Panda Bai Yun’s Tooth


Dr. Sutherland-Smith used a light to seal a dental composite during a restorative dental procedure on Bai Yun.

Dr. Sutherland-Smith used a light to seal a dental composite during a restorative dental procedure on Bai Yun.

Yesterday morning, September 10, a dental procedure on giant panda Bai Yun was performed by a team of veterinary service staff. I was fortunate enough to attend and watch! The whole experience was fascinating to observe, and I was impressed at how diligently the San Diego Zoo’s veterinary team cared for and treated our beloved Bai Yun.

The reason for the procedure was that keepers had noticed there was a chip in one of Bai Yun’s lower canines. As most of you know, giant pandas use their teeth to chew and break apart bamboo, tearing apart the stalks to look for the culm (soft, inner tissue of the bamboo). A chip such as the one in Bai Yun’s canine isn’t uncommon, especially for a panda of her age. Remember: she just turned 23!

In order for the veterinary team to get a close look and perform a dental exam, Bai Yun needed to be taken to the San Diego Zoo’s Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine. Once Bai Yun was anesthetized at the Giant Panda Research Station, she was carefully transported to the on-grounds veterinary hospital so staff there could get a closer look at the canine in question. They performed a dental exam and took some X-rays of the chipped canine tooth, after which they concluded that a restorative procedure could be done to fix the tooth. A warming blanket kept Bai Yun’s body temperature at a comfortable level. Surrounded by all of the vet team members and their equipment, I was surprised that she seemed smaller to me than when I see her in her exhibit. Crazy, huh?

Dr. Meg Sutherland-Smith, who is our associate director of veterinary services,  filled in the chipped part of the tooth with a dental composite and then used a special light to cure the composite. Dr. Sutherland-Smith noted that originally they had some concerns that the pulp canal of Bai Yun’s chipped canine had been compromised, but she was happy to report that it wasn’t compromised after all, and she noted that the restorative procedure should help prevent any further chipping or deterioration.

After the dental procedure was completed, a veterinary technician performed a dental cleaning on all of Bai Yun’s teeth and then assisted as Dr. Sutherland-Smith took a few images inside Bai Yun’s mouth with a specialized dental camera. Bai Yun was then transferred into a panda transport cage, which allowed her to wake from the anesthesia while still being in the veterinary hospital’s treatment room. Veterinary staff closely watched as Bai Yun woke up, monitoring her breathing and vital signs throughout the process. I checked in with our panda team a few hours later to get an update on Bai Yun. The team reported that Bai Yun was doing great and was comfortably resting back in her own bedroom suite.

Watching this dental procedure was such an incredible experience. It showed me firsthand how hard our animal care teams work to care for our animals at the San Diego Zoo.

Ina Saliklis is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Planning a Panda Snow Day.

Note: We hope to include a video with this post soon.


Planning a Panda Snow Day

Remember Xiao Liwu's first snow day back in March?

Remember Xiao Liwu’s first snow day back in March?

On Thursday, August 29, our beloved pandas at the San Diego Zoo will receive approximately 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of snow as part of a special enrichment surprise. Starting around 6 a.m. on Thursday, Arctic Ice Company will begin the process of blowing snow into the two main viewing exhibits.

The three pandas receiving snow are one-year-old cub Xiao Liwu and his mother, Bai Yun, who will enjoy the snow together, and the cub’s older brother, four-year-old Yun Zi, who will be exploring the snow in his exhibit. (Of course, this plan is subject to change if the little stinker—er, cub—doesn’t cooperate by shifting off exhibit when asked!) This will be Xiao Liwu’s second snow day (see Panda Cub Gets Cold Feet), and we are eager to see how the cub will react to his snowy exhibit this time. For his first snow day, Xiao Liwu was a little hesitant, but once he saw Mom enjoying the snow, he jumped in and playfully wrestled with her until he tired himself out.

These special snow-day enrichments would not be possible without our generous donors. A private donor event will be held before the exhibit opens to the public to give thanks to many of the donors who contributed to the Zoo’s online Animal Care Wish List. The Wish List is like an online gift registry for animals at the Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park and can be found at sandiegozoo.org/wishlist.

The panda exhibit will be open at 9 a.m. as usual for guests to come see the panda snow day. For panda fans who aren’t able to see the bears in person, Panda Cam will be available for online viewing of snow day starting at 8 a.m., or fans can check out the Zoo’s social media channels for updates, photos, and video:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sandiegozoo
Twitter: www.twitter.com/sandiegozoo
YouTube: www.youtube.com/sdzoo

Ina Saliklis is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Panda Cub: Exam 15.


Panda Cub: Exam 15

Look at those teeth!

The cuteness continues! Being a new member of the public relations team for San Diego Zoo Global, part of my job is to write about the panda exams and try to get the media to cover this little cutie. Tough job, right? You can imagine my excitement when my co-worker asked me to accompany her to the panda exam today and help write the press materials covering it. Believe me, there was almost no pause before I said “SURE, I’ll do it!”

Once we arrived, we talked with the keepers and waited until the timing was right to take the cub from the den. Food is usually a good distraction for mother Bai Yun, and she is so consumed with her special treat of apple snacks that she doesn’t seem to miss her beloved cub for the few moments they are separated. Panda keeper Jennifer Becerra brought in the swaddled cub, who seemed extra sleepy this morning and was barely even awake for the exam! He quickly got comfortable on the blue blanket that the keepers had laid out for him, and the challenging job of taking measurements began. He weighed 12.1 pounds (5.5 kilograms) and measured 25.9 inches (66 centimeters) long.

The keepers have to work quickly these days to collect the measurements they need, since Xiao Liwu is crawling more and eager to explore the new environment. Anticipating this, the keepers had laid out a variety of distractions for the cub, ranging from a ball, a chew toy, some bamboo leaves, and a piece of apple to smell. The cub nosed at the ball and climbed through the bamboo leaves, but was mostly interested in crawling around and exploring as much as possible. After the Panda Team got the measurements they needed, they let Xiao Liwu crawl around on the carpet so they could monitor his crawling progress. The cub is gaining confidence on his paws and moving quickly, so keepers had to keep a close eye to make sure he didn’t travel too far. They were careful not to keep the cub away from his mother for too long, so once the information that they need was gathered, the growing cub was brought back to his den.

Seeing this panda in person was such a great experience, and I can really understand why the public has fallen completely in love with him. I’m so excited for all of his fans to come see him once he goes on exhibit, most likely some time in January, and for everyone to experience this “little gift” in person like I did.

Ina Saliklis is a junior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global.

Visit our Panda Photo Gallery for more images from today’s exam.

Click on chart to enlarge.