About Author: Yadira Galindo

Posts by Yadira Galindo


Panda Cub: Exam 16

His belly is still round and adorable!

Xiao Liwu didn’t quite gain a half pound since last week’s exam. At his 16th exam yesterday, he weighed in at 12.5 pounds (5.7 kilograms) compared to 12.1 on Thursday. Now if it were me, that would be great news for my waistline! But if you’re a growing giant panda cub, one might wonder why that round belly didn’t grow plumper? Don’t fret: our “little gift” is simply growing into his skin. Zoo Nutritionist Jennifer Parsons and Zoo Veterinarian Tracy Clippinger gave the cub “two paws up” on his health check up. I gave him two thumbs up on the cute factor!

Jennifer told us after the exam that Xiao Liwu is becoming more muscular, so the slight weight gain is turning into muscle. Tracy described it this way: his pudgy baby fat is thinning to trim toddler muscles. Less fat means more muscles, which translate to active walking instead of crawling. Good news for panda fans, because the better he walks, the closer he is to making his public debut. But, before you get too excited, he’s not quite there yet. While watching Panda Cam, I’ve observed Bai Yun drag our little gift back to the den many a time. Although they are taking excursions to other rooms, his more-muscular legs are not quite strong enough for the exhibit just yet.

Xiao Liwu is becoming more and more active. He didn’t want to sit still during the exam, but he also wasn’t trying to get away from the Panda Team. Rather, he just wanted their attention. I should have focused on Jennifer’s measurements, taking notes about his body length (26.7 inches or 68 centimeters) from nose to tail, if you really want to know), but instead, I’m cooing in the back of the room. My heart melts every time he crawls into their lap or when he flips on his back like he did today. Like many of you, I’d like to reach out and scratch that fuzzy belly, which, by the way, still looks pretty round.

But Xiao Liwu is not here for me to talk baby talk to, so I refocus and learn from Tracy that the kiddo has eight teeth now. His canines are very apparent now. He also has more teeth that are just below the gum line. Those teeth are there for future use. He is not eating bamboo or any other food yet; he is solely dependent on mother’s milk for now. That nutritious milk that Bai Yun supplies is all he needs to continue to grow into those paws. His back left paw measured 4.7 inches (12 cm) long today. I particularly like to see his rear end as he walks, because he has a little patch of white hairs on one of his rear legs. For me, that will be one of those distinguishing features that will help me identify him when he reaches adult size; that is, if he keeps the white patch.

For now, my memories of this little gift will be how comfortable he is among the Panda Team. After the examination was complete, Xiao Liwu wobbled to the middle of the floor in between the team, laid down, and closed his eyes, sweet serenity amid the people who watch over his health day in and day out.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, You May Call Her Qinisa.

Click on image to enlarge the chart.


You May Call Her Qinisa

Little elephant Qinisa is one cute girl!

You can stop calling her baby girl or not! But if you want to call the Safari Park’s female African elephant calf, who was born on August 28, with her official name, here it is: Qinisa, a Siswati word that means to act with energy, act determinedly, fulfill one’s word, or speak the truth. The name is pronounced (!) EEN-EE-seh (! is a tongue pop instead of a q sound).

Her name is very fitting, as Qinisa has been determined (successfully, I might add!) to develop fastest of the 12 calves born to the herd of African elephants at the Safari Park. At only one-week-old she was sucking water into her trunk and using it to pick up objects like sticks. I watched Qinisa do that today, and she sure seemed like a pro! This dexterity has not been seen at such a young age, according to Curtis Lehman, San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal care manager. This skill had been documented after a couple of weeks of age among the other calves.

She has mastered her nursing technique!

Qinisa seems to be spending the least amount of time nursing compared to the others, but she obviously seems to be getting more than enough milk from her mother, Swazi! Curtis thinks she may have also mastered how to nurse quickly, since she is averaging a weight gain of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) per day. The calf has gained 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in her first 21 days of life. She’s growing much too quickly for my personal taste, but just right for normal calf development.

The Elephant Team is still documenting Qinisa’s developments. They were out today with clipboard in hand taking notes every time she nursed. Beside her quick learning curve, they also observe how other elephants interact with her. The other elephants interact with Qinisa whenever Swazi allows it. Big brother Mac is playing nice; then again, he’d better, or Mom would have a word or two with him. Apparently, the adult females only interact occasionally, since they know to keep their distance from a protective Swazi, the herd’s matriarch.

But our two young female baby-sitters, 6-year-old Khosi and 5-year-old Kami, seem to have the most access to the calf and continue to compete for baby-sitting rights. Kami and Emanti get to hang out with the trio of Swazi, Mac, and Qinisa overnight, so Kami has the upper hand to get more baby-sitting time. Kami was never far away from Qinisa while I watched this morning. She was so gentle with the calf, I couldn’t help but smile. Swazi seems to now be taking advantage of the two baby-sitters and wanders away from Qinisa when she naps, but not for long. If Qinisa wakes, Swazi comes back quickly.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global.


Loss to Elephant Family

Umoya with her son, Emanti, last year.

Today the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and its African elephant herd are mourning the death of the spirited Umoya. As the mother of two calves, Phakamile and Emanti, she will be missed not only by these two but by the entire herd and the keepers who have worked so closely with her since she arrived at the Park in 2003.

Moya, as we called her, was 21 years old. She was born in Kruger National Park and was one of the original seven African elephants rescued from Swaziland from being culled because of an elephant overpopulation. She could often be seen walking backward in the exhibit, making her quick to identify among the females. Moya enjoyed training sessions with the keepers and was a very quick learner. Most importantly, she was a good mother.

Phakamile, or Kami for short, was born in 2007. Moya immediately cared for her first calf, keeping her close and making sure she grew healthy and strong. In 2010, Moya gave birth to Emanti, a male who is now 18 months old and just at the weaning stage. He will surely miss the caring reach of his mother’s trunk and her protective instincts, but he will have his big sister by his side. Kami has always been a good sister and even a good cousin, reaching out to all the younger calves.

Because the elephants live a natural herd structure, we believe their social interactions will keep Emanti and Kami safe and cared for. Their “aunties”—the other adult females—have always been known to care for each other’s calves, even encircling the calves when they think there is a problem. Some calves have even been seen nursing from their lactating aunts. Emanti should no longer need his mother’s milk. He has been eating solids for quite some time, and if this morning was any indication, he should progress well among the social unit that is the Park’s African elephant herd.

As they do in the wild, the herd was offered an opportunity to mourn Moya. The elephants came to see Moya after she died—some touched her with their trunks and others simply stood by her. By her side were Kami and Emanti, but once the others began to walk away, the two youngsters followed their aunts to an adjoining yard.

Animal care staff discovered Umoya lying down with injuries when they arrived at the Safari Park early Thursday morning. The injuries indicated there might have been an aggressive interaction with another elephant. We thank you in advance for all your well wishes and know that you, too, will feel this loss.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Valentine’s Day, Mammoth Style.


Valentine’s Day, Mammoth Style

Luti enjoys his birthday cake!

You might celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate, flowers, or even dinner. I like chocolates with peanuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts—pretty much any kind of nut. But as it turns out, pellets were a big hit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on this Valentine’s Day as we celebrated elephant Lutsandvo’s (“Luti”) first birthday.

It didn’t matter in what form the pellets were presented. They were mashed and used as one of the frozen layers for Luti’s heart-shaped birthday cake. A heart for a boy? Yes, of course, if you’re name means love in SiSwati and you were born on February 14! His keepers showed him lots of love by creating a four-tier cake no elephant could resist. It had that frozen layer of mashed pellets, another of beet pulp, and two layers of food puzzles filled with solid pellets that were all wrapped in a heart shape with ficus branches.

It was a banquet of goodies in the elephants’ East Yard today. There was so much ficus browse scattered around the yard we weren’t sure how quickly Luti would make it to the cake. It took him a few minutes to venture his way to the artfully crafted cake. But when he did, it was very obvious that his keepers know him well. He devoured as much as he could before deciding that the ficus branches were calling his name, much like that chocolate that’s sitting on my desktop.

“Lutsandvo seemed to really enjoy it,” said Mindy Albright, Safari Park senior animal keeper and one of the master minds of the celebration. “He stopped picking up pieces with his trunk and even bent down and took a big chunk out with his mouth.”

I have a feeling he thought no one was watching him, but we were, and we caught it on video. When he did finally walk away, Vus’musi came in to help his little half-brother out. I figure, why not? “Musi” will celebrate his seventh birthday on February 23, so he should get cake, too.

Luti, Musi, and their mom, “Ndlula,” were given a little bit of time in the yard to eat the Valentine’s Day goodies before the rest of the herd could come in to quickly gobble up the rest. And they sure did! One after the other, each elephant gave the cake, food puzzle, or ficus a try, and they all made it look so appetizing. Nice job, Mindy and team!

Mindy told me that at 1-year-old Lutsandvo weighs 947 pounds (430 kilograms). I’m thinking that after today, he may have gained a pound or 20! Now, which chocolate shall I eat first?

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Flight of a Scaredy-Cat.

Update: Video of Luti’s birthday is now posted…


Flight of a Scaredy Cat

Yadira prepares to fly!

Flight. Birds do it, airplanes do it, but people? Yes, I did it. Well, kind of. I jumped off a 20-foot-high ledge, did a back flip, and landed on my back staring at the sky wondering, “Are you crazy?” Oh, the things I’ll do for work!

During Mission Fed’s Discovery Days: Festival of Flight, running November 11 to 14, the San Diego Zoo is offering a special opportunity to take part in a Flying Trapeze class. My job was to experience it in advance and allow myself to have my shocked image used for photo and video publicity in advance of the four-day Festival of Flight. Just one little catch: I’m afraid of heights.

So why did I volunteer myself to take flight? Even though I probably held my breath and clenched my teeth the entire time, it was exhilarating! It was an incredibly fantastic experience that will likely be the only open-air opportunity my heart can tolerate to experience flight. Plus, I couldn’t allow my colleague, Matt Steele, the San Diego Zoo’s social media guru, to have all the fun.

She's having fun. Really!

I climbed up an aluminum ladder, counting each rung. I had to distract my brain as it kept telling me that what I was doing was breaking the laws of physics and that the human body was not meant to fly. Ignoring the practical side of my brain, I focused on the ladder, counting each prong until I got to the top. I lost count when I reached the top and looked down. “Keep an eye on the bar the entire time,” the instructor reminded me. Gladly. I looked up at the bar that I now held above my head. Bent my knees and waited for the signal. “Hep” or GO!

Although my feet felt like lead, I hopped off the platform, arched backwards with my feet pointed, and looked at the sky and bars. I swung back and forth for what seemed like five minutes but in reality was seconds before I got the cue to let go. Do what now? There was one thing I heard loud and clear when I was on the ground receiving instructions on proper body posture: do what you’re told by the instructor exactly when he says it. Not a second later. So when he indicated it was time to let go, I reluctantly did as I was told. I landed on my back, facing up and bouncing lightly on the net below.
I laid there repeating in my head, “I can’t believe I just did that. Breath now. The hard part is over.” I was lying, very comfortably I might add, on the net, relishing the experience. I felt proud of myself for taking the plunge and not backing out last minute. I think I may have been smiling, that is until the instructor said to get off the net and do it again!

She's a natural!

Wait, what do you mean “again”? Didn’t you get all the pictures and video you needed the first time? Kidding. I made my way off the net and back up the ladder, again and again. I wasn’t going to permit Matt to look better than me, even though in the end he did. For each time he climbed up the ladder and flew, I did the same. He was a little more advanced than I was. He managed to nail every single flight while I didn’t get my legs over the bar on every attempt. I’ll blame it on my fear of heights!

Because I can’t just get rid of my nervousness with one flight, I admit I continued to feel the butterflies flying around in my stomach. But I also felt an excitement unlike any other the moment my feet were in the air. I’m breathless as I write this, remembering the experience. I’ll be flying again soon. I need a rematch with Matt, he just doesn’t know it yet. If you see me in one of the classes at the Zoo, don’t be surprised, but please do remind me to breathe.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, All-star Home for Tina, Jewel.

Note: Flying Trapeze class is for ages five and older and is offered November 11 to 14. It costs $69 per person, plus Zoo admission for nonmembers. If you’re interested, read the information on Flying Trapeze for proper clothing, class times, and to reserve your spot, as space is limited.


All-star Home for Tina, Jewel

Billy at the Los Angeles Zoo

Only two hours north of the San Diego Zoo lies Griffith Park. Tucked into a sprawling metropolitan community, the park includes a railroad museum, miniature railroad, theater, an equestrian center, and much more. It is also home to one of the San Diego Zoo’s conservation partners, the Los Angeles Zoo.

I had the opportunity to explore the Los Angeles Zoo’s new six-acre Elephants of Asia habitat that will soon be home to Tina and Jewel. As I walked through the 3.8 acres of elephant yard space, I noticed the soft river sand throughout the enclosure. Think of it as walking along the beach: it takes a little extra effort to get around, which means great exercise for the girls and for Billy, the Los Angeles Zoo’s male Asian elephant. Then I noticed one of two eight-foot deep pools that bumps right up to the sand. The sun was shining, and all I could think of was how fun it will be to watch Tina and Jewel splashing around in their own private oasis on a warm California day.

Elephants of Asia habitat at the Los Angeles Zoo

Depending on whether Tina and Jewel are in “Cambodia,” “Thailand,” “India,” or “China,” they may have the opportunity to enjoy a waterfall or water spout instead. Regardless of what geographic area they meander through, they are bound to find enrichment aplenty, and Los Angeles Zoo guests will get up-close views of the girls while learning about conservation threats to this endangered species, as well as programs underway to help protect Asian elephants.

Tina and Jewel have been at the San Diego Zoo for 14 months. They recovered from a variety of ailments under the watchful eye of San Diego Zoo keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, and many others. These same people took a look at Los Angeles Zoo’s plans and exhibit and decided that now was the best time to send the two elephants on to the next step of their lives. Tina and Jewel have had the opportunity to interact with a couple of the San Diego Zoo’s other female elephants, but they had not yet integrated into a herd. Because of the space available for the pair to move together to the Los Angeles Zoo’s state-of-the-art elephant habitat, and the experienced elephant keepers ready to care for them, a match was made.

Billy enjoys the new waterfall.

The move will also be an opportunity to reintroduce Billy to elephants with the hope that they will become a herd. I watched Billy lumber through the yard and interact with his keeper. He splashed water and hay over himself and explored his surroundings. It was easy to picture Tina and Jewel there, perhaps enjoying the cool cascade from the 20-foot-tall waterfall. If they need a little more TLC, such as foot care, the girls will go to the state-of-the-art elephant barn, where the floors are warm to the touch and the space comfortable during inclement weather.

When the Los Angeles Zoo designed the exhibit, they were really thinking of everything, including 28 cameras pointed in every direction of the exhibit and barns. It will be a good way to monitor Tina, Jewel, and Billy as they get to know one another and their new home. I can’t wait to see them in their new digs in Los Angeles when it’s completed in December.

Using the protected contact system of elephant management, Jewel and Tina will be under the watchful eye of experienced animal care staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, who are working closely with the San Diego Zoo team to ensure that the two elephants receive the same level of care they received while in San Diego. This collaboration is one example of how San Diego Zoo animal care experts work together with zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage rare and endangered species like elephants. The San Diego Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo work together along with other conservation organizations and government agencies to breed and release endangered animals like the California condor and the mountain yellow-legged frog locally.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Name the Elephant Calf!

View video of the Los Angeles Zoo’s new elephant habitat.


New View of Cheetah Conservation

From left: Kelly, Makena, and Rachel during an ultrasound procedure.

Rachel carefully pours blue gel onto the ultrasound wand. She glides it gently over Makena’s belly, applying only light pressure while in search of a heartbeat, spine, or ribs. Next to the mother-to-be is Kelly, who provides moral support and gently caresses Makena. Moments later Rachel whispers, “There is a heartbeat.” And then a second. The fetuses are getting bigger daily. Everyone beams with enthusiasm except Makena. She purrs. I may have as well!

Makena is a five-year-old cheetah participating in a training session to carry out ultrasound procedures. She is one of 133 cheetahs born so far at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as part of a very successful conservation program.

After her birth in 2005, her mother was unable to care for Makena and her three littermates. They were lovingly hand raised by zookeepers. Because Makena is part of an endangered species, she joined the Safari Park’s breeding program and became pregnant for the first time this year. Her temperament and bond with Senior Keeper Kelly Casavant are the perfect mix for a husbandry training program that eliminates the need for anesthesia and other invasive techniques. Makena sat, unrestrained, licking a frozen treat and purring during this training session.

“She learned basic behaviors as a cub such as sit, down, and stay,” said Kelly. “I have been working with Makena her entire life to get her to this point. We are very much about training for medical reasons.”

Makena was introduced to new people and strange objects, like the portable ultrasound machine the size of a laptop. She inspected it, including the magic wand. She decided it was acceptable as long as she was able to enjoy time with Kelly, her favorite keeper, or had a treat. The blue gel she didn’t care for, however. “She doesn’t like feeling wet,” said Kelly. They got over that hurdle, and in October they were able to see two fetuses in an ultrasound.

Kelly’s work, along with Rachel Peters, senior registered veterinary technician, has paid off. Detecting a pregnancy in this species through hormones is common; seeing the fetus in the womb is a rarity. The Safari Park had not performed an ultrasound on an alert, unrestrained cheetah in more than two decades. In the 1980s a similar opportunity existed when a cheetah with a similar temperament was pregnant. The Park prefers not to anesthetize pregnant females when avoidable. Since pregnancy can be confirmed with hormones, ultrasounds are not routinely used. An ultrasound may occur during a necessary veterinary exam.

The opportunity to do an ultrasound on a cheetah provides the team with a chance to gain valuable information about cheetah biology and ultrasound techniques, all while Makena enjoys her “bloodsicle.” It is not essential to know how many fetuses a cheetah is carrying during pregnancy, but from a science perspective it offers insight into something called “resorption,” which is the process of breaking down and assimilating something; in this case, the body breaks down a fetus. If an ultrasound indicates the animal is carrying one or more fetuses, but only one or none are born, scientists can rule out a false pregnancy and can take a closer look at the animal’s health. Is there a problem, or was it a natural occurrence?

Resorption has been documented by San Diego Zoo scientist in giant pandas. The adult female panda, Bai Yun, has given birth five times in San Diego. During her previous two pregnancies it was well documented through ultrasound that she carried more than one fetus. In both cases Bai Yun gave birth to only one cub. In 2009, the heartbeat of the second fetus became faint with each ultrasound until it disappeared completely. Perhaps it is the body’s way of saying this fetus was too weak, or it recognized that the mother was not able to carry more, or maybe the environment was not right for the birth of more than one cub. This is an area that needs further study in individual species.

What we do know is that training animals to participate willingly for a reward during husbandry activities has allowed zoos to care for animals in a way similar to how your dog is trained, through positive reinforcement. It is less invasive and can be mentally stimulating to the participant. The same principals are applied to training other species, including an elephant receiving a pedicure or blood being drawn from a monkey, because like our own pets, zoo animals can get sick or, in this case, pregnant.

I watched in awe as Makena sat patiently while Rachel placed the cold gel on one side of her belly and then the other side. Periodically Makena turned from her frozen treat to look at Rachel. “It’s still me,” Rachel reassured her, and the big cat went back to purring like a kitten.

Cheetahs are smart, Kelly says. I never asked my doctor for a treat when I went in for an exam or vaccination. Makena is definitely smarter than I am! From years of watching zookeepers work with animals using positive reinforcement, I learned a few tricks to teach my three dogs better doggie etiquette at home, but this technique was even more helpful when my cat was diagnosed as diabetic. I placed a small amount of tuna in his bowl to distract him from the insulin injection he received twice daily. After only a few days using this method he never again fussed about his medication. If only I could have taught him to stay. That’s a job for another day.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Name the Elephant Calf!

Watch video of this amazing procedure being performed on a cheetah!


What Name Will You Choose?

Vote for the little guy's name!

We received 1,019 exceptional suggestions from all of you to help us name Umoya’s 3-month-old male calf. The Park’s elephant keepers reviewed each and every one of them and had quite a few chuckles along the way.

Thank you to all of those who suggested that the calf be named after themselves! And thank you to all those who offered a tie to this year’s largest sporting event, the World Cup held in South Africa. Personally, I really liked “vuvuzela,” but it sounded a bit feminine. However, that’s just my opinion, and I didn’t vote. One of the several people who suggested this word offered this reasoning: “apropos, as the instrument is long and trumpets loudly, like an elephant’s trunk.” Cute!

He loves a good squirt of water!

Because the calf seems to love playing in water and having it poured into his mouth, many people suggested names that incorporated water, including “waterspout.” One person offered the name “Loxi” based on the African elephant genus of Loxodonta; someone had their thinking cap on!

But in the end, the keepers meticulously narrowed the choices down to three names that would translate well into SiSwati, the language of the Kingdom of Swaziland, the country the calf’s parents were rescued from in 2003.

The final three names are:
1. Emanti, a word that means “water.”
2. Usutu, which is a large river in Swaziland.
3. Mnakabo, a word that means “their brother.” This word was chosen to represent the herd’s growing population.

Beginning Monday, August 9, and until August 12, you’ll have the chance to vote for your favorite of the three final choices. Voting will be online only, and all you have to do is go here to cast your vote. We’ll reveal the name at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 26, at the Park’s elephant exhibit. Join us if you can, or watch it on Elephant Cam.

Follow this link to help name the elephant calf: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/africansummerfestival/calf_contest.php


Name the Elephant Calf!

The calf born in April to Swazi has been given a name courtesy of one of our donors: eMacembe La Lu Hlata; keepers call him Macembe (ma KEM bay). Now, after naming seven elephants born at the Wild Animal Park over the past six years, we’re out of ideas! Well, maybe not, but we still want you to suggest names for our youngest African elephant. Our blog readers have been kind enough to help us find very suitable names for Yun Zi, our youngest giant panda, and Zoli, a silvered leaf langur, but now you’ve reached the big time!

We like to think that these naming opportunities have given you an occasion to learn more about species like pandas and langurs. Now it’s time to study up on pachyderm biology, because from July 13 to 25, you’ll have a chance to submit your suggestions via the Zoo’s Web site. Remember: the suggestions should relate symbolically to the calf or elephant conservation. Open up the science books, read through our Animal Bytes elephant page, visit the little guy at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, and get inspired.

Keep in mind that we will continue the tradition of translating the name into SiSwati, the language of the Kingdom of Swaziland where the calf’s mother and father were rescued. We’re not going to ask you to submit it in siSwati (we’ll do that for you), but if you can—well, bonus points for you!

Here are a few tidbits about the kid: Born May 12, 2010, he is strong, playful, loves the water, and enjoys spending time with the other boys, including his papa, Mabu.

The best way to really get your creativity flowing is to visit the youngster. Now is a great time to do so, because during the African Summer Festival at the Wild Animal Park we have a special treat for the elephants at 11 a.m. daily: Elephant Rush! Come out to watch the elephants eagerly head out into the exhibit to enjoy the snacks, search for treats, and play with items—and each other! It is easy to confuse the three calves born this year, in February, April, and May respectively, but a staff member is on hand at 11 a.m. to talk with guests about what’s happening and answer questions.

Still need more help? Read the latest blog (Elephants: Umoya’s Calf) written by Curtis Lehman, the animal care supervisor who looks after the elephants, to learn more about the calf’s personality. You can also check out the Meet the Elephants page on our Web site. Here you’ll find the names of the rest of the herd and what they mean. For example, the newest calf’s mother’s name, Umoya, means “spirit” because of her extraordinary personality. In 2004, Vus’musi was named by the King of Swaziland. Since he was the first calf born at the Wild Animal Park, the king chose a name that means “to build a family.”

So get to it. Submit your ideas July 12 to 25. In August, we’ll post our favorite names for an online vote. The name with the most votes will be announced at the Park at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 26.

Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.


A Whirlwind 16th Exam

panda_exam16_1To summarize today’s panda cub exam:

  • Chest girth, 20 inches (51 centimeters)
  • Abdominal girth, 21 inches (53 centimeters)
  • Weight, 18.1 pounds (8.2 kilograms) and thus “extra robust” but healthy
  • Length: wiggly, thus “not today”
  • Gait, only turns to the right; strength, improving
  • It was another whirlwind Yun Zi checkup. Now that he’s figured out what his legs can do, he seems to be ready to use them during his exams. Once again the little guy only wanted to be on the floor where he could walk around among the giggling Zoo staff. He didn’t seem to care that we were chuckling at his expense…well, not at him, more because of him. His wobbly gait is something to make you smile and, yes, laugh out loud! Dr. PK Robbins (pictured below) pointed out that pandas “move a bit differently,” and that a panda’s “front legs learn quicker than the back legs.”

    panda_exam16_2She wasn’t kidding! His front legs seem strong and much more coordinated than his back legs, which seem low to the ground in a crouch position. Pandas are pigeon toed, which makes Yun Zi’s wobble (it’s not really a walk) look even more comical. He insisted on showing off his newly developed skills, so most of what I could see was his rear end as he tried time and time again to get to the floor for a stroll. When he was in the arms of the keeper or Dr. Robbins, he would attempt to climb them.

    Is this a sign he’s ready to start the next phase? I don’t know. What I do know is that Yun Zi was making us all snicker, especially after Dr. Robbins observed “he only turns to the right.” Every time he tried to move in a different direction he seemed to choose to turn right. Could it be because he’s still learning to use his motor skills and doesn’t know how to use his left turn signal? Or, was it simply the choice of a silly boy to make us laugh? I’m stumped. What I do know is that he was on the move so much that the Zoo’s nutritionist gave up on trying to get his measurements because he just couldn’t keep still; she finally sighed, “Not today!”

    Today the staff at the Giant Panda Research Station was not in charge. Not today. It was a day when an 18-pound, 2-foot long, black-and-white bundle of fur ran the show.

    Yadira Galindo is a senior public relations representative for the San Diego Zoo.

    Watch video of the exam…

    Here’s a weight comparison of the Zoo’s five cubs:

    Hua Mei, Day 130:
    15.9 lbs (7.2 kg)

    Mei Sheng, Day 134:
    15.9 lbs (7.2 kg)

    Su Lin, Day 133:
    14.2 lbs (6.45 kg)

    Zhen Zhen, Day 131:
    16 lbs (7.3 kg)

    Yun Zi, Day 132:
    18 lbs (8.2 kg)