Pandas

Pandas

54

Weaning Xiao Liwu

Xiao Liwu enjoys a bamboo lunch in his expanded habitat.

Xiao Liwu enjoys a bamboo lunch in his expanded habitat.

When a giant panda cub is totally weaned from his mother in the wild places of China, one of two things likely happens: either his mother runs him off with aggressive behavior, as has been noted with some brown bears, or the mother and cub simply wander away from each other and begin separate lives. Many panda fans worry that that final weaning event is a sudden change for the bears, but in reality it is the culmination of a longer process that begins some months before, when the cub develops his bamboo-feeding dentition.

At about a year of age, the cub’s diet changes from one of 100 percent maternal milk to one incorporating his staple adult food, bamboo. He starts by feeding on small quantities of leaf, mastering the process of chewing and swallowing a solid food. Gradually, the cub ingests more and more bamboo and needs less caloric support from mother’s milk. By the time a final weaning separation occurs, he may only have been nursing once a day, or even skipping days between suckling bouts. The development of this nutritional independence takes time, and thus, weaning is not accomplished overnight.

Xiao Liwu turned 18 months old on January 29, 2014, and we have begun preparations for weaning him from his mother, Bai Yun. Many of you have noticed changes in the access given to our mother-cub unit, as they are now regularly seen exploring both the left- and right-hand exhibits. We have opened the door between these two usually separate spaces, allowing the pair to freely explore either side, moving independently or together as they see fit. This is an opportunity for both animals to become comfortable with the right-hand exhibit, which Bai Yun hasn’t seen in nearly two years; the cub has never experienced it before.

During this period we will be watching the pandas to see how they are utilizing this newly enlarged space. Do they spend more time in close proximity or separate? Does the cub follow his mother everywhere or explore alone? Does Bai Yun seem to move away from her cub when he approaches? The answers to these questions will tell us more about Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu’s readiness for weaning and will inform our decision-making as we move through this process. We aren’t in any rush here.

The weaning period is sometimes a difficult one for our blog readers and panda fans. There is often concern about the well-being of our bears during this time. Bear in mind, however, that a zoo setting is unlike a wild one in that there are barriers to animal dispersal. Simply put: our animals reside in enclosures, and they are not free to wander away from each other as they might in the wild. We have to help them adhere to their natural tendencies by opening up new spaces.

By making changes to the access our bears have to the spaces around them, and to each other, we are facilitating a natural process that is taking place in wild habitat even as we speak. In doing so, we are respecting the health and well-being of both mother and cub, guided by the best practices that biology, science, and husbandry allow.

I will update you periodically as to the status of our weaning process. In the meantime, I encourage all of our newest panda fans to read up on past weaning events with other panda cubs, in blogs such as:

Weaning Panda Cubs

Weaning Zhen Zhen: And So It Begins

A Big Step Forward

In these, you can find more details about what we know about this period in a panda’s life and the importance of remembering that this is not just about the cub but also the mother. You can get a flavor for how the process unfolds and how past cubs have responded to our weaning protocols. After eight years of blog-writing, our panda archives contain a wealth of information that you can access to learn about this and any other panda-specific topic you might be curious about.

One final note: To make room for our mother-cub pair and changing needs, we have moved Gao Gao to our off-exhibit area. You may see less of him on Panda Cam, but he is still here, happily munching away on bamboo and getting lots of attention from our staff. He won’t be back on exhibit again for about a month, as the weaning process will be focused in the main exhibit spaces.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Yi Lu Ping (Have a Good Trip), Yun Zi.

95

Yun Zi Travels to China: Part 1

Yun Zi enjoys lunch in his traveling crate.

Yun Zi enjoys lunch in his traveling crate.

I have been extremely fortunate to know Yun Zi since the day he was born four and a half years ago. I fell in love with him the first time I saw those blue and mischievous eyes. He has taught me so much about taking care of pandas, patience, and training. But he would tell you he has me trained! So when my supervisor asked if I wanted to accompany him to China, there was only one thing for me to say, and that was “Yes!”

At that moment I felt extremely privileged to be able to care for Yun Zi on this adventure to his new home in Wolong, China. A soon as I knew this information, I had a checklist of everything we needed to do to prepare Yun Zi for his trip. I knew Dr. Beth Bicknese, our veterinarian, would be joining us on the trip so I wouldn’t be alone.

The first thing and easiest part was picking out a travel crate for Yun Zi. We chose the same crate that his sister, Su Lin, used for her trip to China. Our lead keeper delivered the crate near Yun Zi’s bedrooms so he was able to see it. We then started feeding Yun Zi some of his bamboo and treats in his crate with the door open. Yun Zi is very adaptable and would sit and eat in his crate calmly; soon after, we were able to close the crate door while he was in there. At this point, we needed to increase the time he spent in his crate, and that meant he had to move off exhibit, away from public view.

Daily, Yun Zi started eating his lunch in his travel crate with his keepers near by to keep an eye on him. These sessions would last one to two hours, and we varied the time he was in the crate. Then came the scary part: we drove a forklift toward his crate, and Yun Zi proved that it wasn’t a scary thing at all! He sat calmly, eating his bamboo as our supervisor lifted him in his crate. He was excelling at all his preparations, including having someone standing on top of his crate, loud noises, and seeing groups of strangers around him (thanks to help from our panda narrators and educators).

The last major thing he had to do was his final physical exam with Dr. Beth and the other veterinarians. Yun Zi passed his exam with flying colors and was deemed healthy for his long journey. He even excelled at giving a voluntary blood sample two days after his exam!

Yun Zi made his part look easy. As the keeper going with him, I was assigned, with my supervisor’s help, to prepare all his luggage and things he would need along the journey. I picked out two of his favorite toys to take with him: a plastic donut and his PVC puzzle feeder (sadly, his swing was too big to come with us). We packed gloves, garbage bags, towels, a rake, shredded paper, squirt bottles, honey packets, a jug of water, biscuits, bamboo bread, and his favorite bamboo.

Suzanne Hall, one of our panda researchers, helped me make a training video of all the behaviors that Yun Zi knows. I know everyone is curious about Yun Zi not knowing the Mandarin language, but we prepare our pandas for this. We train them with verbal cues in English and hand cues/gestures. The video shows both cues, so when his new keeper performs the hand cue for “sit,” Yun Zi will know that he is supposed to sit. This will help him eventually learn the language and his new keepers.

Most of his meals will be the same. We have the ingredients to prepare Wolong panda bread, and Yun Zi really enjoys it. The bread is to replace the cinnamon-flavored high-fiber biscuits we offer our pandas. He will still get his regular diet of bamboo plus apples and carrots.

When the day came to leave (January 9) it was like any other day for Yun Zi: he walked into his crate to have lunch. When he was comfortable and eating his bamboo, the forklift picked up Yun Zi in his crate, and we loaded him in his transport van. Dr. Beth, Yun Zi, and I had our luggage, and we were ready to go to the Los Angeles airport.

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Birthday Plans for Yun Zi.

26

Bear Ambassador Learns Importance of Plants

Ambassador Mi Ton Teiow explores some bamboo growing at the San Diego Zoo. This bamboo represents the incredible horticultural collection of San Diego Zoo Global and a key component of giant panda habitat.

Ambassador Mi Ton Teiow explores some bamboo growing at the San Diego Zoo. This bamboo represents the incredible horticultural collection of San Diego Zoo Global and a key component of giant panda habitat.

We’ve mentioned in previous Bear Blog posts that some of the major threats to different bear species are habitat loss, or habitat degradation, or habitat fragmentation. As you can tell, for bear conservation it’s important to consider the amount and quality of bear habitat. For food, bears (except for polar bears) rely on plants. Thus, people concerned about bear conservation often become concerned about the conservation of the plant communities on which the bears depend. Although San Diego Zoo Global is involved in conservation of animals, it also does a lot of work with plants.

Recently I talked to botanists and horticulturists at the San Diego Zoo, and our whimsical Bear Ambassador, Mi Ton Teiow, was able to visit plants from bear habitats around the world. You might know that our horticultural staff grow most of the bamboo eaten by the giant pandas or the eucalyptus eaten by the koalas, but that’s just the beginning of what they do! I knew that certain parts of the Zoo contained plants related to some I’d seen in Andean bear habitat in the cloud forest of southeast Peru, but our horticulturists pointed out close relatives of plants that are important to Andean bears in the dry forest of northwest Peru, as well as plants from Australia, Hawaii, and Africa.

This flowering powder puff tree (Calliandra haematocephala) may catch your eye, but there’s more to the plant collection than what meets the eye.

This flowering powder puff tree (Calliandra haematocephala) may catch your eye, but there’s more to the plant collection than what meets the eye.

One reason they are able to grow such a diversity of plants at the Zoo is its variation in topography, which helps create a wide range of microclimates. I was surprised to learn that during winter, certain parts of the Zoo may receive frost at night! Of course, another reason the horticulture staff is able to grow such diverse plants is their research to understand just what the different plants need to grow and reproduce. Sometimes this research requires them to conduct experiments such as those in the lab to determine the best conditions for propagating orchid seeds, or field trips like those to investigate wild fig trees.

San Diego Zoo Global grows plants for many different reasons, and sometimes because the plants themselves are of conservation concern, plant species can be endangered, and captive reproduction can be an effective tool for plants as well as animals. In addition to plant conservation efforts, horticulture staff grow plants for several reasons related to animal husbandry. As I mentioned earlier, some plants are fed to the animals, providing them with more natural sources of nutrition than they would get otherwise. Parts of other plants are given to animals as a form of enrichment, especially because of their scents. When an animal shreds a few branches it’s been given, the animal is performing a natural behavior in a renewable manner: the horticulture department will grow more!

This diversity of plant species and structure may resemble tropical bear habitat, but it’s actually part of the horticultural collection at the San Diego Zoo.

This diversity of plant species and structure may resemble tropical bear habitat, but it’s actually part of the horticultural collection at the San Diego Zoo.

Woody plants are also used as structures in the animal enclosures. Large limbs, logs, and sometimes stumps are placed so that animals have items to rub on, climb on, and sometimes sleep upon. You can probably see our bears interacting with their log “furniture” any time you visit the Zoo. And, any time you visit, you can pick up a free map and take yourself on a self-guided walking tour of the botanical collection surrounding you. If you’re able to visit the Zoo on the third Friday of a month, you can explore the plant collections further. On those Fridays, called Plant Day & Orchid Odyssey, you can take a free narrated botanical bus tour to learn more about the plant collections, and you can visit the orchid greenhouse, which is home to more than 3,000 orchid plants!

The next time you’re visiting the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, or a zoo elsewhere, take a closer look at the plants; they’re a whole lot more than “just” landscaping; they’re food, furniture, and enrichment for the animals and plant ambassadors of the habitats on which their wild relatives depend.

Russ Van Horn is a scientist with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, Bad News Bears.

200

Yi Lu Ping An (Have a Good Trip), Yun Zi

The time has come to say goodbye to our good-natured young panda, Yun Zi. Yesterday, January 9, 2014. He embarked on his most momentous adventure yet—a move to his homeland. After crating up easily, our boy was loaded into a vehicle for the trip to Los Angeles, where he caught his flight to China. Thanks to the diligence and careful planning of our staff, he is well prepared for his journey.

The keepers worked to ready Yun Zi for all of the transitions he is about to make. He began crate training some weeks ago, getting used to the transport crate he will live in for a few days as he hops across the pond and heads up to the mountains of his ancestral homeland. As anticipated for such a smart and easy-going boy, he adapted to his new crate easily, spending time feeding inside it and accepting treats from his keepers through the openings of the crate.

Yun Zi Throughout the Years

Yun Zi Throughout the Years

Keepers have also been preparing him for the dietary transition he will undergo. In China, the pandas are not fed the low-starch, high-fiber biscuits and kibble they are used to getting in San Diego but instead receive a specially made formulation of bread that is foreign to our bears. Our keepers have access to that bread recipe and for some time have been whipping it up in our on-site kitchen so that Yun Zi could adapt to this new culinary staple. Thankfully, he had taken to the new bread, perhaps better than any of our returnees ever had.  This means dietary changes in China won’t be a big deal for our boy.

Since he is traveling in winter, staff wanted to prepare Yun Zi for the big change in temperatures he will experience. Keepers had been fattening him up a bit, and he has little rolls of flesh that will serve as extra insulation against the cooler mountain air. He looked nice and robust.

Staff has also prepared videos to leave with Yun Zi’s new Chinese handlers that detail aspects of the training he has received. This will help his new keepers to better understand the commands he has been taught, and, hopefully, will enable them to continue to use his training to facilitate future husbandry and veterinary procedures. Our video contains shots of Yun Zi sitting quietly while having his blood drawn, for example; his training allows this procedure without the use of anesthetic. This is a highly desirable, low-stress way to get biomedical data from him, and we wanted to be sure his new handlers are aware of his capabilities.

Yun Zi isn’t traveling alone on this voyage. He is attended by his primary keeper, Jen, who has been with him from birth. She had been actively engaged in his training, both during and prior to his preparation for departure to China. Yun Zi knows and trusts her, and this will be a comfort to him on his journey. In addition, a veterinarian is accompanying our boy on his flight, should there be any medical concerns to address. We anticipate that will be unlikely.

On Wednesday, the keepers began preparing his food bundles for the trip, and I know they were selecting choice bamboo culm to keep him content on the flight. Jen will ensure he receives regular munchies throughout the trip and will regularly refresh his water and clean up his crate to keep him comfortable. All of the plans and preparations are in place.

All that’s left now is to wave goodbye. 

Farewell, Yun Zi. You were a fun and exciting part of our panda research program. Even from far away, you will always be a member of our San Diego Zoo giant panda family. Yi lu ping an.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

 

181

Ready for Panda-Monium 2014?

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu can sometimes create their own panda-monium!

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu can sometimes create their own panda-monium!

Hello Panda Fans,

It is time once again to announce Panda-Monium! This will be our fifth year gathering together at the San Diego Zoo. The dates are March 21 and 22, 2014. Please see the linked poster pdf for basic information. Send an email to our address right away at pandaconvention@yahoo.com and you will receive the full information packet. All of the forms are in there for registration and T-shirts as well as info about the Meet and Greet Friday night, Zoo day and Evening Reception on Saturday, and how to make your hotel reservations if you would like to stay at our discounted rate.

Please join us and mingle with other panda fans over the weekend. We’ll have the opportunity to spend time with the pandas before the public arrives on Saturday. Suzanne Hall, senior researcher at the Giant Panda Research Station, will be our speaker during a breakfast buffet in the Rondavel. We have been honored to have Suzanne as our speaker in the past and have so enjoyed her talks and company. We learn something new every time! There is a question-and-answer period at the end of Suzanne’s presentation, so you can ask all those questions you have. The Zoo Experience includes your Zoo pass for the day.

Our Saturday Evening Celebration is at the hotel. Details are in the invitation packet about some of the awards that we will be presenting ~ but there are more! If you choose to wear black and white, you could win the Best Black & White Attire award. We will have awards and door prizes, hot and cold appetizers, a no-host bar, and lots of panda fans mingling. It is fun to put faces to names from the blog and Facebook.

Our T-shirt this year will be sapphire, same company as previously. If you are unable to attend, you may still order a T-shirt. Contact pandaconvention@yahoo.com for the details.

Space is once again limited to the first 50 people to pay AND submit their registration form. We must have BOTH the payment and the registration form for your registration to be final.

Looking forward to seeing you in San Diego!

Panda Convention Coordinators

79

Preparing for a Proper Farewell

Yun Zi is in perfect health!

Yun Zi is in perfect health!

It was a heartfelt farewell for our veterinary team, who have been taking care of giant panda Yun Zi his entire life here at the San Diego Zoo. With the utmost care, they carried out his very last checkup yesterday, making sure he is sent to his homeland in the best of health. The very first time this charming young panda met his veterinarians, he was the size of a stick of butter; his first checkups consisted of weighing, measuring, and making sure he was a healthy little cub. This last checkup, however, was a bit more extensive.

Always the pampered panda, he had every test to ensure he was in perfect travelling health. The veterinarians first made sure he was warm and comfortable by placing a warm blanket on him. He then had a few x-rays taken, got a TB skin test, an echocardiogram of his heart, an ultrasound of his belly, and even a dental exam and teeth cleaning.

While it was hard to take my eyes off one of the cutest patients in the history of hospital care, the legacy of Yun Zi shined through his veterinarians; even while conducting the most challenging of procedures, smiles would creep up on their faces—this panda’s charm was taking hold of the room. Not many can say that their allure endures even while they are sedated!

One of the most incredible moments for me was hearing the rhythm of this guy’s heartbeat; it echoed through the room like the most joyous of tunes.

Now we all know that nothing panda related can escape without an overwhelming amount of cuteness, but a true gush-worthy moment was when a veterinarian went to get a sample from Yun Zi’s ever-fluffy belly. The vet very gently inserted a needle in his tummy and then laughed and let out an inquisitive “hmmm…” Considering the idea that there was just too much fluff and chub to get through, she then went to get a longer needle.

But, of course, Yun Zi is the whole package. While he is a handsome and just plain adorable creature, it is his dashing personality that has won the hearts of his many adoring fans, so the best part was when he woke up after his checkup…or at least tried to. The sleepy guy was back in his crate and, at first, he was reluctant to wake up from his serene nap. As the team brushed him, he seemed to be enjoying it and didn’t feel the need to get up. His little eyes would blink and look around when the staff called out his name, saying, “Wake up, sunshine.” And as though saying, “Okay, okay, I’m up,” he would yawn and lick his teeth while probably thinking, “Hey, my teeth feel cleaner.” He would then lift up his rump, and then his hind paws, then take a pause and just plop right back down. At one point, he just went right back into his napping position wherever he landed, with his nose and right paw sticking out of his crate, but he didn’t care—he was a sleepy panda.

It was a great sign that the hardest part of the checkup was to get the patient to return to his enclosure, and with the incredibly cute checkup complete, Yun Zi is now ready to journey to China. If you see him on Panda Cam, you’ll notice shaved spots on his left rear leg and left arm and two circles, drawn with a felt pen, to indicate where his TB skin test was taken.

When one says farewell to someone they love, it is usually with a heavy heart. But I could tell by looking around the room that his keepers are filled with joy to see him start the next chapter of his life, and nothing gave them more peace than knowing that he would begin his journey as the healthiest panda one could ask for.

Ciela Villasenor is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Khosi is Queen for the Day.

Note: You may still catch glimpses of Yun Zi on Panda Cam until his departure.

303

Panda News: The Good and the Bittersweet

Yun Zi is a confident subadult panda.

Yun Zi is a confident subadult panda.

The Panda Team is thrilled to share the news that we have extended our loan agreement with China for another five years! This is great news for all of us, and we are excited to see what the next five years brings for our pandas, Bai Yun and Gao Gao, here at the San Diego Zoo and for panda conservation efforts.

We also wanted to let everyone know that Yun Zi, now 4½ years old, will be heading to China to join the breeding program in January 2014. This is an important, yet bittersweet, milestone for all of us because, simply put, we will miss Yun Zi! While all of the pandas born here are special, Yun Zi’s playful antics have brought tremendous joy to all who have watched him grow up. From the first croaks and squawks we heard from him back in the summer of 2009, to his first steps and his growing confidence, strength, and adventurousness, watching him grow into a strong and active young male has been a true pleasure.

Our sadness at seeing him go is brightened, of course, by the fact that he will go to China to become an important part of the breeding program there. As an offspring of Gao Gao, his genes are an important contribution to panda conservation efforts, and we look forward to hearing news of his transition into adulthood.

Getting ready for a trip to China is no small undertaking, and so keepers will be working with Yun Zi over the next month or so to make sure he is ready for the long journey.  It is so important that he becomes comfortable in his traveling crate, and we want to give him as much time as we can to acclimate to it. This means that Yun Zi will  be consistently available for public viewing only until Tuesday, December 10, 2013, before his travel training begins. You may catch a glimpse of him on Panda Cam now and then when he is in the north exhibit. Now over 4 years old and weighing more than his father, Gao Gao, does, we know he will handle this move just fine.

We hope that everyone has a chance to say their goodbyes to the this very special bear. And please feel free to use this comment section to send your best wishes to Yun Zi and his keepers.

Megan Owen is an associate director with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Pandas: How Far We’ve Come.

25

Pandas: Back in Main View

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu, caught on camera this week

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu, caught on Panda Cam this week

Pandas are officially back in the main viewing area of Panda Canyon at the San Diego Zoo. I think the cub, Xiao Liwu, is thrilled to have his favorite branch back, and Bai Yun is still trying to fit on that little hammock to take her naps. Yun Zi has plenty to keep him busy with his climbing structures and, of course, scent marking the exhibit. In fact, that was the first thing I noticed them doing when they were put back into the area; Bai Yun spent most of the day marking her territory again, mainly on the ground, and Yun Zi was even getting some handstands in there on the wall.

I’ve had a lot of questions from guests coming into the area about why we needed to close the main viewing exhibit for a while. The primary reason for closing the exhibit was to re-roof the building; after removing the old roof, additional structural repairs were completed. We also had a new cool zone pump installed. Whenever we close the exhibit, we try to get as many projects done as possible!

The first thing I noticed was how cut back many of the branches were, and they were able to cut quite a bit of the bamboo behind and around the exhibits. Cutting the branches is important for everyone’s peace of mind; although the pandas don’t jump from branches, we want to make sure that our perimeter is secure and that each bear stays inside. The bamboo trimming is also important for the health of the bamboo, to provide sunlight and ventilation. Several guests have noted that it is much easier to see the cub when he is at the top of the pine tree now that there aren’t as many branches blocking the view. Also, cutting down bamboo makes it easier for keepers to look into exhibits and possibly work with the bears along the back fence line.

Keepers were also able to put fresh soil and mulch down around the enclosure, and the bears are having a blast in it. Bai Yun and the cub have been rolling in the mulch and playing quite a bit in it. Yun Zi has also been rolling around in it, so much so that guests are asking if the pandas are unusually dirty these days. We always like to see the bears being this active, and I know that our Panda Cam viewers and guests love to have these moments on camera.

Mom and cub have been quite entertaining these days, especially when Bai Yun is trying to eat her lunch. One thing I definitely notice with this cub is how patient she is with him. I actually saw Xiao Liwu take a piece of bamboo that she was eating right out of her mouth and sit in her lap while he ate it. I’ve seen previous cubs TRY this with Bai Yun, and they were usually sent rolling down the hill! Stealing her food was something Bai Yun didn’t normally put up with. This cub, in my book, has gotten away with more than any other cub I’ve seen before.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and keep an eye on the Panda Cam!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Long Time, No See Bears.

33

Pandas: How Far We’ve Come

Su Lin is at home in China.

Su Lin is at home in China.

Traveling to China is always an adventure, and the prospect of seeing old friends and long-time colleagues at the International Panda Symposium in Chengdu was exciting! The symposium was truly a great opportunity to listen to scientists from around the world share their updates on current research projects, overviews of the incredible successes for panda conservation achieved over the last 20 years, and important directions for our conservation research efforts for the years to come. We also had an opportunity to visit the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, where we saw the many panda cubs and young adult bears that have been born there in recent years. There is still so much to learn regarding pandas and their conservation, but it is amazing how far we’ve come in the past 20 years!

On this trip I was also able to check in with staff from Wolong and Bi Feng Xia regarding the status of the San Diego Zoo-born pandas. Having watched their births, first days of life, and years of development into healthy sub-adults, I think we all love to hear how Hua Mei, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, and Mei Sheng are doing.

Hua Mei, our first-born cub, continues to show that she has her mother’s “good-mom” genes. Now 14 years old, she produced another cub (a male) on July 18, 2013, at Wolong, making her the mother of 10! Both mother and her newest cub are doing well.

Eight-year-old Su Lin had a normal estrus this past spring at Bi Feng Xia and mated naturally several times but did not produce any cubs this year. Regardless, she is doing well and living at Bi Feng Xia. Ten-year-old Mei Sheng mated naturally this year at Bi Feng Xia, too, but we don’t know yet whether he has sired any cubs, as DNA tests are not performed right away to determine fatherhood.

Little Zhen Zhen, now six years old, is currently weighing in at a robust 220 pounds (100 kilograms)! She mated in 2013 and produced a cub that, sadly, did not survive. Zhen Zhen is also living at Bi Feng Xia and doing well.

Megan Owen is an associate director for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, News about Zhen Zhen.

90

Long Time, No See Bears

Bai Yun seems to like the spotlight!

Bai Yun seems to like the spotlight!

Working at the San Diego Zoo for nine years now, I’ve been able to have some amazing experiences and opportunities. One of my most recent was to go on a three-month loan to work on the Elephants Odyssey team taking care of dromedary camels, Baja pronghorn, wild burros, and a very sweet Mustang named Mo. As my loan came to an end, I was sad to leave the animals I had come to love but was curious to see how the pandas were doing, especially our little boy, Xiao Liwu!

On my first day back as a panda narrator, Bai Yun was, of course, her charming self, seeming to pose while she slept and giving her admirers good views of her while she ate. I was also lucky enough to see little Xiao Liwu roughhousing with his mother and eating thinner pieces of bamboo with great enthusiasm. When I had left on my loan, he was still just nursing, so this was awesome to see.

Mr. Yun Zi was also climbing up his trees in the neighboring enclosure and putting on a show for guests. One of the trees always sheds a lot of leaves, and it was so fun to watch him shake the tree and see how many leaves he could knock off. When I first put him on exhibit as a new little cub, his favorite “toy” we used to lure him out of his bedroom was a dried leaf. Seeing him play brought back those memories of him jumping in piles of leaves and chewing on crunchy, dried-up leaves.

As we get into the cooler months of the year, it’s always fun to watch the different activity levels of the bears and the fun enrichment that comes with it. Come see us soon!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, What about Gao Gao?