About Author: Victoria Girdler

Posts by Victoria Girdler


Lucky Exam 13

Victoria, in the center, holds Xiao Liwu on her lap. Panda fans everywhere turn green with envy.

Yesterday was Xiao Liwu’s 13th exam. Thirteen might be unlucky for some people, but for me it was my second opportunity to assist with an exam; my first one was six weeks ago (see post Panda Cub: Exam 7). It was definitely a different experience this time around. To start, we now perform the exam on top of a special carpet on the ground in the Giant Panda Research Station. This transition happened a few weeks ago when the young cub began attempting to crawl. He was an adorable wiggly worm as I tried to hold him still while the veterinarian and nutritionist attempted to examine and measure him.

At 15 weeks of age, he weighed 10.3 pounds (5.7 kilograms) and is 25.1 inches (64 centimeters) long (see growth chart below for a cub comparison), and our veterinarian, PK Robbins, noted that his first four teeth have erupted through his gums.

The best part is that his crawling seemed to bring him up into my lap, not away from us as one might expect. It appears that our sweet panda baby enjoys a good cuddle! At the end of the exam, we backed away to observe the improvement in his crawling with no impediments. Xiao Liwu is progressing nicely, getting his rear feet under him as he crawled. We have even witnessed him crawling back into the den, which is raised about 6 inches (15 centimeters) off the ground.

Stay tuned for future milestones!

Victoria Girdler is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

Click on chart to enlarge.

Note: Photos from the 13th exam are now posted in the Panda Photo Gallery.


Panda Cub: Exam 7

Who is the lucky one holding me today?

Today is a day I will always remember. I have worked for San Diego Zoo Global for almost 10 years, but only started working with pandas 1½ years ago. Today was my first opportunity to hold a panda cub, and I have to say it was everything I hoped it would be. Baby boy panda was so cute and fluffy, and since he is getting older now, very squirmy. He weighed 6.6 pounds (2.99 kilograms), his chest girth is 13.7 inches (35 centimeters), his length from head to rump is 16 inches (40.5 centimeters), and his abdomen measures 15.5 inches (39.5 centimeters) around. The cub is able to see and hear more of the world surrounding him, and during today’s exam, veterinary staff confirmed that his eyes and ears are fully open. I look forward to many more interactions with him over the next few months.

Since this is my first time experiencing a panda cub growing up, I am enjoying the day-to-day activities between Mom and cub. Now that the cub is a few months old, Bai Yun has started taking him out of the den into the surrounding bedroom space. While these areas are not on Panda Cam, we do monitor these outings. Trips out of the den are Bai Yun’s way of exposing the cub to new experiences, sights, and sounds. Most of the time she keeps him cradled in her arms, but on occasion she sets him down and encourages him to crawl. This is easier to do on a solid surface as opposed to a high nest of bamboo. On one particular day she was especially helpful, laying him on the scale in her bedroom so we could get a weight!

I look forward to the days, weeks, and months to come when he will get a name, learn to crawl, and eventually follow Mom out into the bigger exhibits.

Victoria Girdler is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Elephant Odyssey: One Year.

View more 7th exam photos in our Panda Photo Gallery.

Click chart to enlarge.