About Author: Jenny Mehlow

Posts by Jenny Mehlow


Name Our Jaguar Cub for Conservation

The male jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo is getting a lot of attention for his off-the-charts cute ratings, but this little boy needs a name. Animal care staff have worked together to come up with a list of possibilities and now we want to hear what you think. Vote here.

The jaguars at the Zoo are just three of the jaguars that San Diego Zoo Global is working with. Scientist Mathias Tobler, Ph.D, has spent more than 10 years working in the Peruvian Amazon. He is using radiotelemetry, GPS collars, and camera traps to study jaguars and other keystone species’ role in the Amazonian ecosystem. Tobler is using this technology to learn about how undisturbed populations of jaguars use their habitat, their movement patterns, home-range size, density, and their foraging ecology to create a baseline to evaluate future impacts on this species caused by human development. This data will help to inform conservation decisions and recommend ways to mitigate impacts to wildlife during the planning stages of development projects near the most pristine and bio-diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

At San Diego Zoo Global we’re working to understand jaguars, as well as pumas, peccary and tapirs, and have seen improvements in the techniques of capturing, tracking and observing animals. It has also been noticed by the Peruvian government and the research team has been asked to advise Peruvian officials on monitoring systems for animals in this area.

Studying jaguars in the Peruvian Amazon is just one example of how San Diego Zoo Global is working to #endextinction for endangered species. To find out more about this project and others please visit these resources:

Counting Jaguars in the Amazon

Looking for Jaguars in the Night

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.


Panda Cub: Exam 18

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.


Panda Cub Exam 5: Say Aww

I can almost see you now!

The Giant Panda Team at the San Diego Zoo completed another exam on our little cubbie this morning. The calm, 53-day-old cub didn’t make a peep while he was weighed, measured, and examined by veterinarians. While being scratched behind his ear, it triggered a super-cute kick reflex in his leg that had everyone in the exam room saying “aww.”

The newest cutie weighed 4.9 pounds (2.26 kilograms) and is 16 inches (42 centimeters) long. Veterinarians noted that his eyes are almost open now. They believe the cub has some vision, but it is likely limited to light and shadows. His chest now measures 12.5 inches and his well-fed belly is 14.5 inches around.

Bai Yun has started taking her boy out of the den and into her attached bedroom area while she eats bamboo, so don’t be alarmed if you check in on Panda Cam and find the den empty. She’ll return him soon.

Members of the Panda Team have nicknames for the cub, but we are still taking suggestions for the cub’s official name through Monday, September 24. Just click here to submit your name idea!

Check out more pictures in our Panda Photo Gallery.

Click on the Giant Panda Cub Growth chart below to view in larger format


Snow Big Deal!

It’s been rather cold lately in San Diego. Even those of us who have lived in the cold before weren’t ready for this snap…and then, it got even colder. In fact, it snowed!

But just at the panda exhibit in the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek.

What better way to get ready for our 3rd annual Jungle Bells event than with a little snow for our pandas? A flurry of the white stuff was blown in Thursday morning, and a winter wonderland was set up for Bai Yun and her two-year-old son, Yun Zi. This is the first time that the young panda had ever seen snow. He came out of his bedroom, tested the snow with his paw to see if he could walk on it, and then made his way from one corner of the exhibit to the other, not quite sure what to make of the new landscape! At one point he was digging in the snow and rubbed his face in the snow – not quite a snow angel, but something like that.

Our Horticulture Department staff constructed a 5-foot holiday tree from two types of bamboo (oldhamii and vivax) that was shaped to resemble a pine tree for Yun Zi to enjoy. They used a large block of ice for the tree stand, but it was no match for Yun Zi. He approached the tree, swiftly knocked it over, and nibbled the slices of fruit and vegetables that were hung as ornaments. I don’t think he appreciated the effort made, but we viewers did—the tree looked beautiful AND tasty!

Yun Zi then climbed up the icy tree stumps in his exhibit and napped above it all. Bai Yun stuck to her usual habits and sat in the middle of her exhibit munching on her morning bamboo, seeming oblivious to the snow around her. Ah well! It wasn’t until later in the day, when I went and checked out our new high-definition Panda Cam, that I noticed that he was running around, tumbling and really playing in the snow. Joy!

Enjoy the video of Yun Zi below:

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Name the Baby Koala.


Name the Koala Baby

G’day, mate! We’re getting ready to go on a walkabout during San Diego Zoo Discovery Days: Koalapalooza, presented by Outback Steakhouse. The four-day event runs Friday, February 18 to Monday, February 21. The Zoo has the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia—and it keeps growing. For the third year in a row, we are naming a koala joey (baby) as part of the Koalapalooza festivities.

This year the naming is a bit more challenging. Why? We don’t know if the joey is a boy or a girl. The joey was born on July 21, 2010, and took its first peek out of the pouch the last week of January. So, to work around the gender issue, we’ve asked the Koala Team to look up some Aboriginal words that could serve as a name for a male or a female, which is tougher than it might sound.

The team came up with seven names, and we’ve posted them here for you to vote on:

Cambee (“blankets”)

Jumbunna (“talk together”)

Gummy (“spear”)

Cuddelee (“dog”)

Andi (“who”)

Aroo (fan made of emu tail feathers)

Panda (“heart”)

Yes, our newest koala could be named “Panda.” That might be awfully confusing….

Your online vote will help us narrow the names down to the top three name choices, and then that’s where the fun begins—we’re going to let the mother, Yabber, pick her joey’s name! How’s that, you ask? Well, we’ve been working with the Koala Team to figure this out, and this is what we’ve decided to do. On the opening day of Koalapalooza, the three names will be placed on three different “trees” inside Yabber’s habitat. Then, at about 10:30 a.m., a keeper will gently set Mom (with the joey in the pouch) on the ground of the exhibit, and the tree she chooses to climb will be the name for the joey in her pouch.

This is the first time—that I know of—when one of our animals has had a chance to name their own baby! We’ll report back and let you know how it turns out.

If you’re able to make it for the naming ceremony, you’ll want to stick around for the other exciting activities at Koalapalooza. The whole Zoo will be brimming with Aussie-themed entertainment, including keeper talks, scavenger hunts, plush koala tracking with Zoo researchers, and live music from the land Down Under. You’ll even have the chance to meet a koala and the other animals that share their habitat up close. Hope to see you there!

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Elephant Encounters of the Cute Kind.


Elephant Encounters of the Cute Kind

Our newest elephant greets the world.

I expected Monday, December 27, to be a relatively slow day, a day to catch up on some work items. But all that changed quickly when a note was passed to me saying “Call the Park. A baby elephant was born.” I hopped in a van with our videographer, Shea Johnson, and off we went to see the calf, a boy and the fourth African elephant born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this year.

When we arrived at the elephant exhibit, there was already a crowd of people surrounding the upper yard were Mom Litsemba, baby, and older brother Impunga were. The baby’s ears were flapping, his trunk was moving up and down and all around, and Mom was always right there with him. His feet weren’t moving in perfect harmony yet, but he was pretty stable. I was impressed, seeing as he was walking just hours after birth.

Mother Litsemba keeps Baby close.

Baby elephants, in my experience, are well-proportioned creatures. Unlike puppies or kittens, they don’t seem to have the tell-tale signs of overly large feet or ears that give you a clue as to how big they’re going to become. They’re just a true miniature version of their parents. This baby managed the slope of the yard just fine. He even found a small, shallow puddle to check out, but when Mom saw that, she quickly moved him away from the water with her trunk and began sucking up and blowing out the water in what seemed like an attempt at drying the puddle.

As we stood there taking video and photos, the baby started to fall asleep standing up. Then, the drowsy boy started to slump down—front legs first, then his back end—and he eventually just flopped on his side and continued to rest. But he wasn’t down for long—a couple of minutes—before all the motion from his mother and brother had him back up and following their lead.

Time for a rest! (Click on images to view in larger format.)

Keepers are tracking the times and duration of his nursing; he doesn’t nurse for very long—usually less than a minute—but nurses frequently. You can tell when he’s nursing when one of his front legs leaves the ground. They nurse on three legs; I’m not sure why, but I do know that it is darn cute.

The baby stumbled a bit, but other than going down for a quick nap, he was up and around for the hour I was visiting. He won’t have a name for a while, so keepers will just call him “Baby” or “Semba’s baby.” This is the fourth elephant baby we’ve had born this year, a record for us. The other calves born in 2010 are Lutsandvo, on February 14, Macembe, April 12, and Emanti, May 12. There are now a total of 17 African elephants at the Park: 8 adults and 9 calves.

You can expect to see Baby out with the herd in the main yard, unless there is rain, when he and his mother will be in the upper yard with quick access to the warm, dry barn. They will also be in the upper yard at night for observations for the next five weeks.

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Pandas and Their Toys.

Watch the Park’s elephants daily on Elephant Cam.


Pandas and Their Toys

Yun Zi enjoys one of his new toys!

Panda fans have been waiting, and waiting…and waiting. And finally! We bring you video of your beloved Yun Zi playing with toys that were gifted to him—and all of the pandas at the San Diego Zoo—through generous donations from the fans and viewers of Panda Cam to our Panda Wish List

The video of Yun Zi and Bai Yun with their enrichment items is now posted, and you’ll be able to see Yun Zi “surfing” in his pond, hugging his toy, and trying to fit into a too-small hoop.

Thanks again to all of the online fans and friends of the pandas who donated for the baby shower we held online in November. We hope it was worth the wait!

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.


Cub Gains Muscle

Yesterday I sat in on one of the last of Yun Zi’s exams before he goes on public exhibit. We were hosting a reporter from the local newspaper, and I warned her ahead of time that as cool as you try to be in the presence of a panda cub, there’s a little part of you that is sure to melt.

For me, I mentally prepared myself not to speak in baby talk, but inevitably I let out a “oh!” when the keepers set him down for the exam and announced his weight: 19.4 pounds (8.8 kilograms).

Beth Bicknese, the senior veterinarian, and Kathy Hawk, the senior keeper, needed all four of their hands to keep hold of Yun Zi’s four paws this morning. To try to keep him occupied, Kathy kept half of an apple in her hand for the cub to smell, taste, and explore. And that worked for about 40 seconds. After that, he was trying to crawl in any direction that would free him from their attention.

Throughout the exam I had a huge smile on my face because there, just 3 feet from me, was a panda cub. *Sigh*

The keepers had set out a large piece of carpet to use as their examining area, but Yun Zi seemed to want to be anywhere but there. During earlier exams, keepers could set him down and he’d stay put – sometimes even falling asleep during the exam – but long gone are those days. Keepers could check about one area of the cub’s body before he’d wiggle away from them and crawl off. It was a constant battle of wills this morning.

He kept making low squeals or yips while Beth and Kathy inspected him. Beth started at the top of his head with a check of his eyes and ears and then worked down his little panda body. They noted that he had more teeth than he had at the last exam, and they could feel his muscles. Yun Zi has been climbing a lot more in the past few weeks and turning what was just some extra mass into muscle.

While he continued to yip, I was sure to have Beth check out his tail; that little black spot is still there. I have to say he wasn’t looking too white today—more of a pinkish/reddish color. Beth explained that this coloring is because of Bai Yun’s grooming. In addition to bamboo, Bai Yun eats a type of biscuit that contains beetroot. The red of the biscuit turns Yun Zi’s white fur a bit pinkish. So precious!

Because of the constant wiggling, crawling, and efforts to get away, the exam was short and sweet. At one point, keepers allowed Yun Zi to just crawl off in the direction of his choice, which was back toward the den. And with that we ended the exam! Of course I could have stayed there all day to watch him crawl around the room exploring the area, but it was best that he get back to Mom, who was up and ready for breakfast.

This is the last of the weekly exams for Yun Zi, and the San Diego Zoo has concluded videotaping and photographing the exams. Keepers are synchronizing Bai Yun’s feeding times with the hours that Yun Zi is awake to increase the chances that Mom will bring – and keep – baby on exhibit.

So soon you’ll be able to have your own first-hand experience of watching roly-poly Yun Zi!

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

Update: Due to the holidays, we have fewer Panda Cam volunteers operating the cameras. This means there are long periods when the camera is unmanned, and keepers are the only ones around to adjust the image for you. However, as you know, the keepers are very busily engaged in the care of our five pandas, other animals, research, and other keeper activities. They aren’t able to check on the camera frequently. When they do, they find a good image of a bear for you and then walk away for another period of caring for animals. For this reason, you may not see any particular panda (including Yun Zi) for some time.

Additionally, there will be times when the bear walks out of the frame and you see no animal (particularly overnight). Please do not worry. All of the bears are fine. This is a normal evolution of this process: once a cub leaves the den, he/she becomes much like any other panda here and will share the camera time with his/her family. The camera is not focused on the den nonstop, because the cub just isn’t there as often as when he was younger. Once his time there falls off precipitously, the den will be closed to him for good, just like with any of our other cubs.

CUB DEBUT UPDATE: Yun Zi’s public debut is set for Thursday, January 7. A special outdoor exhibit (the “classroom”) will be open for Zoo guests from 9 a.m. to noon, although there is no guarantee that Yun Zi will be in the yard at that time! Guest access to the classroom will be for just a few hours each morning during the next few weeks. You can continue to see Yun Zi’s siblings, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen, in their enclosures.

San Diego Zoo Panda Cub Comparisons
Hua Mei, day 146:
18.95 lbs (8.6 kg); 31 in (78.8 cm) long

Mei Sheng, day 148:
17.7 lbs (8 kg); 32 in (81.4 cm) long

Su Lin, day 147:
15.6 lbs (7 kg); 30.9 in (78.5 cm) long

Zhen Zhen, day 146:
17.4 lbs (7.9 kg); 30.3 in (77 cm) long

Yun Zi, day 146:
19.4 lbs (8.8 kg); 30.6 in (77.7 cm) long



An Elephant Goes to the Dentist…

What might sound like the opening of a joke, “An elephant goes to the dentist,” was serious business last week at the San Diego Zoo. Jewel, an Asian elephant, had a lower molar that wasn’t wearing properly and was hindering her eating.

So, to remedy this, and to get her back to eating properly, the San Diego Zoo brought a dentist to her. Well, actually, we brought in an entire team. See video

There were more than 30 people—made up of the elephant keepers, veterinarians, vets techs, and dental experts—who took part in the procedure. It took months of planning, dozens of meetings, and a full dress rehearsal the day before the procedure to make sure all went smoothly.

For an outsider, this was amazing to watch. I knew many of the people who had come together for this procedure, but rarely did I see so many of them in the same place at the same time. And then there were the people I didn’t know.

Dave Fagan, D.D.S., from The Colyer Institute, was the primary dentist on this procedure. He was also kind enough to give me a crash course on elephant teeth and how their diet plays a significant role in their dental heath, how their diets have changed over time, and that the teeth of Asian elephants wear a bit differently than those of African elephants.

Before I met Dr. Fagan, about all I really knew about elephant teeth was that each elephant goes through six sets of teeth in its lifetime. When an elephant works through its sixth set of teeth, it has pretty much reached the end of its life.

So, as I sat with Dr. Fagan on Tuesday morning, waiting for Jewel’s anesthetic to take effect, this is what I learned – put in my own layman terms:

Elephant teeth don’t fall out like human teeth, and they’re not shaped anything like any other teeth I’ve ever seen. Elephant teeth are long; they almost run the length of the elephant’s jaw. And they have well-defined sections within each tooth. The best way I can describe it: like the sections within an orange slice or a comb you’d use to brush your hair. All of these little sections are joined at the bottom. It’s one long tooth, about the length of a loaf of pre-sliced bread, with “perforations.”

Now, the story continues with how elephants use these teeth. Elephants grind their food. They place food between their upper and lower molars and grind on it in a circular motion. And when elephants grab their food, they also get a fair amount of sand in their mouths. And remember, their food includes large branches of trees. As they grind up branches, leaves, and some dirt and sand, over time the grinding motion and the tough nature of the food wears down the teeth and moves the teeth forward and a bit up from the gums. In theory, when the tooth is pushed forward and up by the elephant’s regular grinding of food, the small, perforated sections of the teeth break off, making room for the rest of the tooth and ultimately the next molar.

But this grinding and wearing down of the molar wasn’t happening with Jewel. Her bottom right molar had been pushed up and forward, but the section that was protruding hadn’t broken off. Instead, she had an up-slope at the front of her tooth. Rather than putting the food between the molars and grinding in a circular motion, she’d been limited to a small forward and backward motion, hindered by the “hook” of the bottom molar.

About this time, my lesson ended because the anesthetic had kicked in and the team was ready to start the procedure. As I watched from the viewing area, the mattress team was called in. Mattress team? Never knew we had a mattress team!

But that mattress team played a vital role in Jewel’s comfort. Staff laid down several mattresses and guided Jewel onto the padding for her dental checkup. Once she was down on her right side, animal care staff placed inner tubes between her legs to keep her legs spaced and to make sure that her joints weren’t under pressure.

Every person in the Zoo’s Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center that morning knew their role, and it all appeared to be executed flawlessly. The 30 people moved around the room like a well-rehearsed dance troupe.

Bales of hay were brought in and covered with clean towels to serve as tables for the doctors and vets. All of the tools were laid out, and cameras were quickly put into position to help see inside Jewel’s mouth.

Elephants have surprisingly small mouths. The way it was explained to me was that the dental team would only be able to open her mouth several inches. The team would be trying to work in a space about the size of the trash can at my desk, 18 inches (45 centimeters) or so. Big animal, small mouth.

While the dentist and vets were working in her mouth, the other 25 or so people in the elephant care center were taking advantage of the opportunity to complete other procedures on Jewel. While she was under the anesthetic, veterinarians completed a rectal ultrasound (no abnormalities noted), some basic foot care (trimmed her foot pads, cuticles and nails), and administered her rabies and tetanus shots. Animal care staff also took a blood and urine sample for analysis.

The entire procedure was beautifully choreographed with everyone working together to make it a success. The dental procedure and the secondary procedures took about two hours. The “hook” from the molar was removed.

I wasn’t there when Jewel woke up from the procedure but was told that once she was standing again, she took her trunk and felt inside her mouth, checking out the work. I found this endearing, because I think that we humans do the same thing: our tongues go to that space in our mouths when we lose a tooth as a child.

Throughout the whole procedure, the one emotion I felt most strongly was pride. I was proud that the San Diego Zoo had been asked to take care of this elephant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). I am proud that we have the staff and resources that could complete such a critical procedure for Jewel. And proud that I work for an organization that has so much community support and believes in making the lives of elephants better.

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

Update: The Zoo’s elephants are scheduled to have a Snow Day on Wednesday, December 16. We hope you can come and watch the fun!


14th Exam: Panda Star

panda_exam14Keeper Kathy Hawk had her hands full this morning: during Yun Zi’s weekly exam, it was all she could do to keep a good grip on him! The panda keepers knew that the cub was getting too mobile to examine him on the table any more, so they rolled out the carpet this week to give Yun Zi more space to move around. Then, when Kathy set him down, all he wanted to do was move! Video now posted!

That 5 x 7 carpet just couldn’t contain him. He headed to the edge and walked toward the video camera. When Kathy picked him up to redirect him to the center of the carpet, he just turned right back around and headed to the light on the top of the camera. We know that he’s a star, but it looks like he’s a natural in front of the camera, too!

After keepers and vets let him crawl around a bit, they attempted an exam. But Yun Zi just wasn’t that into it. With the exam taking place on the floor, and Yun Zi being such a wiggle worm, I didn’t really get to see all of his great expressions. I just saw his raw determination to do what he wanted to do the way he wanted to do it. He was squeaking as Kathy held him while veterinarian Tracy Clippinger listened to his heart and lungs. And the squeaking continued when they held him to get a look at his ears and eyes. He has a few more teeth, and when Tracy was feeling around his mouth she assured us that he had a pretty good bite now.

In past exams, if Bai Yun hears her cub squeaking or give a bark during the cub exams, keepers can see her react on the panda monitors. With the cub so vocal today, keepers who were not participating in the exam kept a close eye on the monitors to see how Bai was doing. And how did she react? Well, let’s just say that she didn’t let baby’s squeals get between her and her bamboo. She kept sitting in her exhibit, leaning against a rock, chomping away. She didn’t seem fazed by any of Yun Zi’s squeals.

I didn’t take my own notes on his weight, lengths or girth (I’ll let the moderator add that at the end of this blog); I was just enjoying listening to his squeals and watching Kathy and Tracy try to wrangle a 17-week old panda. It was a lot like me trying to hold my cat, Austin, when he knows that I’m picking him up to carry him inside the house. He tries to find any way to go back to what he was doing – over my shoulder, under my arm, or just trying to take a flying forward leap. But despite Yun Zi’s best efforts and vocal protests, Kathy and Tracy held onto him and made it through the exam, even if they did have to cut it a bit short due to excessive wiggling.

Everything else in his development is looking good. Oh, I did note one measurement: for all those still enthralled with his tail, it still measures 7 centimeters (2.7 inches) and the black spot is still there. His leg muscles are coming along, and you’ll see in the video (that should be up on Friday) that he’s a panda on the move who wants to be heard!

After the quick exam, Kathy and Tracy let him crawl around on the carpet for a few more minutes. He kept heading toward the edge of the carpet and the lights on the camera – like a moth to a flame. He squealed some more as Kathy carried him back to his den. But when I checked Panda Cam on my way out of the Giant Panda Research Station 15 minutes later, he was already asleep and, I like to imagine, dreaming little panda dreams.

Jenny Mehlow is a public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

Note: Yun Zi weighed 15.9 pounds (7.2 kilograms).

Here’s a measurement comparison of our five panda cubs:

Hua Mei, age 124 days:
15.2 lbs (6.9 kg); 27.4 in (69.6 cm) long

Mei Sheng, age 121 days:
14.3 lbs (6.5 kg); 26.2 (66.5 cm) long

Su Lin, age 119 days:
11.9 lbs (5.4 kg); 27.1 in (69 cm) long

Zhen Zhen, age 124 days:
15.4 lbs (7.0 kg); 29.9 in (76 cm) long

Yun Zi, age 120 days:
15.9 lbs (7.2 kg); 27.5 in (70 cm) long