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401

New Digs for Xiao Liwu

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu relax in the off-exhibit garden room.

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu relax in the off-exhibit garden room.

Big changes are happening for our almost eight-month-old panda boy, Xiao Liwu, as we do a panda exhibit swap (it sounds like a dance, doesn’t it?) at the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek. Gao Gao was moved from the exhibit in the main viewing area Monday night, and that exhibit was then cub-proofed for Mr. Wu’s arrival this morning. This included a lot of tree trimming, which had  not been needed for his more earth-bound father, Gao Gao!

During this transition time, the cub is learning to negotiate the access tunnel that leads him from his bedroom suite to a brand-new world of delights. This morning he was given access to that exhibit and immediately climbed up the tall pine tree, a typical response for a cub his age. Mother and cub have access to their bedroom in case they want a little retreat now and then for the next few days, so you may or may not see them, depending on their wishes. We regret that this means that some Zoo guests and Panda Cam viewers may not be able to see the youngest panda at all times. We apologize for this inconvenience but know that our panda fans will understand that sometimes our need to care for our pandas takes precedence over making them available for viewing. Soon, however, adoring fans will be able to see little brother in the enclosure next to big brother Yun Zi’s enclosure in the main viewing area all day long.

Gao Gao will move to Mr. Wu’s former haunt, the north/classroom exhibit, later this week. The north exhibit will be open to private tours and education programs only, but Gao can still be seen on Panda Cam. Yun Zi will continue to be in his exhibit with his new artificial tree.

We still have another exhibit renovation to do to Yun Zi’s exhibit, adding more plants and sod. Plus, keepers hope to add a cross log to the Keebler so they can rehang his hammock and have places to attach his swing.

One other change that will be happening has to do with comments sent to all our blogs. Soon, all comments will post automatically–you won’t have to wait for a moderator to approve your comments! We hope this will increase your enjoyment of our blog section and give you a chance to more quickly and easily interact with other panda fans. Please know that due to the increased volume on our many social media channels, we will be unable to respond to all comments or questions. Comments will be monitored and any comment that is deemed inappropriate will be removed. This change will occur later this week and will be noted in the comment box. Enjoy!

Debbie Andreen is a blog moderator (soon to be blog monitor!) and associate editor for San Diego Zoo Global.

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

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.

0

Panda Affairs

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their job and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Suzanne Hall is a Senior Research Technician doing behavioral research at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Although she splits her time between the Zoo and Safari Park locations, one of her projects involves the very special giant panda. Pandas have been difficult subject for biologists to study because not much has been known about their activity in the wild and they do not naturally reproduce well in zoos. With the research of Ms. Hall and other scientists at institutes around the world, we hope to continue improving the population and quality of life for these iconic bears.

The interns met with Ms. Hall at the Giant Panda Research Center. She gave us an introduction to her work: observing the behavior of animals in order to learn more about their physical, mental, and emotional needs – both in zoos and in the wild.

The interns met with Ms. Hall at the Giant Panda Research Center. She gave us an introduction to her work: observing the behavior of animals in order to learn more about their physical, mental, and emotional needs – both in zoos and in the wild.

Ms. Hall uses an “ethogram” to precisely record panda activity over a given interval of time. Ethograms are lists of behaviors commonly seen among an animal species, such as eating, climbing, urinating, and playing. There are so many distinguishable activities, in fact, that the real ethogram for pandas was at one point more than 30 pages long! Each behavior is given a code so that notes can be taken very quickly, without having to write out the phrase “feed on provisioned food” every time the behavior is seen.

Ms. Hall uses an “ethogram” to precisely record panda activity over a given interval of time. Ethograms are lists of behaviors commonly seen among an animal species, such as eating, climbing, urinating, and playing. There are so many distinguishable activities, in fact, that the real ethogram for pandas was at one point more than 30 pages long! Each behavior is given a code so that notes can be taken very quickly, without having to write out the phrase “feed on provisioned food” every time the behavior is seen.

Interns were given a data sheet to record our observations while we were visiting the panda exhibit, to simulate the way researchers take actual data. Under “all occurences” we wrote the code for any behavior performed by our subject animal for more than five seconds. After each minute of observation, we would move to the next row. In the “pt. sam.” column we wrote down the activity the animal was doing at the exact moment our 60 second timer went off, known as a point sample.

Interns were given a data sheet to record our observations while we were visiting the panda exhibit, to simulate the way researchers take actual data. Under “all occurences” we wrote the code for any behavior performed by our subject animal for more than five seconds. After each minute of observation, we would move to the next row. In the “pt. sam.” column we wrote down the activity the animal was doing at the exact moment our 60 second timer went off, known as a point sample.

The San Diego Zoo currently has four pandas: Bai Yun and her sons Yun Zi and Xiao Liwu, as well as their father Gao Gao. On the day we visited, Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu were the only two that we observed during our behavioral study with Ms. Hall, but our ethogram notes were only taken in regards to Bai Yun.

The San Diego Zoo currently has four pandas: Bai Yun and her sons Yun Zi and Xiao Liwu, as well as their father Gao Gao. On the day we visited, Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu were the only two that we observed during our behavioral study with Ms. Hall, but our ethogram notes were only taken in regards to Bai Yun.

Pandas’ main food source is bamboo and get offered up to 40 pounds of it a day! Funnily enough, pandas are picky about their bamboo: it can’t be too dry or too old, etc. Behaviorists like Ms. Hall have noticed that Bai Yun will often inspect each piece of bamboo before she eats it, discarding some and consuming others.

Pandas’ main food source is bamboo and get offered up to 40 pounds of it a day! Funnily enough, pandas are picky about their bamboo: it can’t be too dry or too old, etc. Behaviorists like Ms. Hall have noticed that Bai Yun will often inspect each piece of bamboo before she eats it, discarding some and consuming others.

The San Diego Zoo has had a number of pandas come and go from their facility. One wall contained pictures of the pandas the Zoo has had: Bai Yun, Shi Shi, Gao Gao, Hua Mei, Su Lin, Yun Zi, Mei Sheng, and Zhen Zhen. Xiao Liwu has yet to get a picture on this family-photo wall.

The San Diego Zoo has had a number of pandas come and go from their facility. One wall contained pictures of the pandas the Zoo has had: Bai Yun, Shi Shi, Gao Gao, Hua Mei, Su Lin, Yun Zi, Mei Sheng, and Zhen Zhen. Xiao Liwu has yet to get a picture on this family-photo wall.

Young pandas are not strong enough to eat tough foods like bamboo, and spend about the first year of life drinking only their mother’s milk. Towards the end of that year, the cub will begin trying to eat small stalks of bamboo. In fact, little Xiao Liwu has only recently begun eating bamboo. His mother, on the other hand, dedicates approximately twelve hours per day to eating.

Did you know that we don’t actually own any of these adorable animals? It’s true: this favorite Zoo attraction is actually a nationally protected species from China, and we care for them on loan from their home country. It takes an international collaboration to preserve this fragile species.

Did you know that we don’t actually own any of these adorable animals? It’s true: this favorite Zoo attraction is actually a nationally protected species from China, and we care for them on loan from their home country. It takes an international collaboration to preserve this fragile species.

Laura, Photo Team
Week Five, Fall Session 2013

 

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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?

51

Panda Narrator to Panda Keeper

Xiao Liwu is getting big and confident.

Xiao Liwu is getting big and confident.

Over the past two months, I have been helping the San Diego Zoo’s panda keepers. It has been more than thrilling—I didn’t have any expectations, and yet those “non-expectations” were somehow exceeded! Being a panda narrator has been a great experience, and I have learned so much about an animal so few get to actually see up close. After watching these amazing bears and talking about them for three years with our guests, I was delighted to respond with a “YES!” when asked to help the keepers, before I even knew all the details. This will be the first of a few blogs about how each day occurs down in Panda Canyon.

I clock in at the Zoo at 6 a.m. The day starts with prepping medicine for the musk deer that the panda keepers also take care of and meds for adult panda Gao Gao. He gets peppermint Tums calcium supplementation—Gao loves them! We also sort the daily produce and biscuit treats and make Gao Gao’s bamboo bread, which smells a lot like tamales! Gao’s bread is a softer substitution to his diet and includes low-starch, high-fiber biscuits, dried bamboo leaves, water, and plain gelatin to stick it all together before it is steamed for 50 minutes; he gets 3 loaves a day, which round out to be about 25 ounces (700 grams) each.

Once that is all prepped, we shift the bears into their bedroom areas and start cleaning their exhibits. The morning cleanup is always the longest, mainly because the pandas make such a mess overnight, plus we rake up other leaves and debris throughout the exhibits. Bai Yun and Yun Zi are usually awake and waiting for us; young Xiao Liwu is, 80 percent of the time, still asleep up in the tree. When “Mr. Wu” is awake and on the ground, he usually shifts off exhibit when asked, with some honey water as an incentive. He is much bigger up close than you would expect but still as cute as ever!

Once the bears are in their back bedrooms, we give Bai Yun and Yun Zi some bamboo culm (the hard stalk) as a snack while they wait for us to clean. If Mr. Wu shifts off, we give him some thinner, softer branches with leaves.

Yun Zi is, by far, the messiest, and although his exhibit is smaller than Bai Yun and Mr. Wu’s exhibit, it takes longer to clean. He sleeps on top of his hollowed-out tree trunk, which we call his Keebler tree. That is the hardest to clean and hose off, and we have to climb a ladder to do so. We gather up all of the leftover bamboo from the night before, the big pieces anyways, and tie it back up and re-weigh it to record how much the pandas ate.

We empty and hose out the pools, clean their drinkers, and rake up the smaller bits of bamboo and their poop (which, strangely enough, smells like rotting pumpkins to me). Mr. Wu is now pooping regularly, but his deposits are usually pretty dry and look like chopped-up hay. He is mainly eating leaves but has started to eat bamboo branches, twigs, and even thin parts of culm in small bites. Xiao Liwu still hasn’t quite figured out how to strip the outer layer of bark off yet.

Finally, we bring out the new, fresh bamboo, and spread their treats and bamboo throughout the exhibit. Sometimes we add some enrichment toys or scents. I have noticed that cinnamon is Bai Yun’s absolute favorite; she rubs it all over herself. But we have also used apple pie- and lavender-scented sprays as well as a few different spices and perfumes. We shift the bears back on exhibit, and the day continues with…. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Nick Orrantia is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

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Livin’ the Panda Life

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here!

Toddlers.
Chubby, adorable, and playful.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is she talking about kids? Isn’t this about animals?” After visiting the pandas at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Center with Ms. Suzanne Hall (a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research), I came to the realization that giant pandas are like toddlers. There are the obvious differences like pandas are wild animals and covered in fur, but many of the mannerisms and attitudes of pandas are very similar to that of a three- or four-year-old human.

When you see the pandas at the Zoo, you probably watch them for five or ten minutes, taking in their utter cuteness, watching them eat their bamboo or sleep in trees. What you may not realize is that those actions make up 90 percent of a panda’s activity every day. Ms. Hall, who studies the behavior of several species of bears, set up a 20-minute period in which my fellow interns and I would record, every minute, the actions of the panda. We had to record all of Bai Yun’s (the matriarch) actions per minute using codes like FDB (feeding on bamboo) or CL (climb). Exactly at the end of each minute, we recorded the specific action she was doing right then, called a point sample. Through this process, it is very easy to determine the importance of each activity in the daily life of a panda, which allows researchers to learn more about their actions in the wild. Also, as researchers studying behavior, Ms. Hall had us note the substrate Bai Yun was on in each minute, such as dirt/grass or a live tree/bush. Over these 20 minutes, I recorded only one action carried out by Bai Yun: feeding on bamboo. Even when the time was up, she probably wasn’t finished eating.

Pandas spend lots of time during the day eating because the bamboo they eat is low in calories. This means that they must eat a larger quantity of bamboo to get the nutrients they need. The rest of a panda’s day is mostly spent sleeping to help digest the bamboo meal. This may seem lazy, but it is what pandas have to do to get the full nutritional value of their food. Giant pandas have a hard time breaking down all the components of the bamboo that they eat. Most mammals that eat plants have bacteria living in their stomach that helps in the decomposition of plant matter. However, pandas are technically carnivores that have adapted to eating bamboo don’t have all of the bacteria in their stomach that true herbivores have. This means that they don’t receive as much energy from their food as most animals get from eating their food.

Even though giant pandas seem to mozy around a lot of the day, they can be playful as well. While monitoring Bai Yun’s behaviors, I got in some glances of the young cub Xiao Liwu playing around in the tree high above his mother’s head. The pandas enjoy playing in the trees or using enrichment items like cardboard boxes or scents placed in their exhibit. And like any youngster, Xiao Liwu also loves to play around with his mother from time to time.

Through Ms. Hall’s behavior research experience, I discovered how alike toddlers and giant pandas are. By observing Bai Yun preparing and eating her bamboo, I learned the importance of eating for the giant panda and why they must eat so much. Also, the panda’s diet affects their activities throughout the day, like playing or sleeping. Although you may not originally guess the similarities of little toddlers to the giant panda, by watching panda behavior you can discover the similarities. Just like toddlers, pandas spend their days eating, sleeping, and playing. What a life!

Leslie, Real World Team
Week Five, Fall Session 2013

375

Helping Panda Keepers

Why work when you can play?

Why work when you can play?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to work as an exhibit attendant at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Center. I’ve been learning a lot about keeper work and what it entails. What I’ve learned is that it’s a ton of fun and a TON of work!

Most panda keepers start their day off around 6 a.m. with getting the supplemental diets ready for the bears and making the bamboo bread loaf for Gao Gao. Then they are ready to clean up last night’s leftovers and panda poop and give the bears their breakfast. Once the exhibits and bedrooms are clean, it’s off to the takins we go, cleaning and placing hay, pellets, and browse throughout these goat-antelopes’ exhibit.

When work at the Sichuan takin exhibit is done, more than likely it’s lunchtime, but soon afterward it’s time for the bears’ mid-day feeding. Keepers prep bamboo diets for the pandas’ last feeding of the day as well as tomorrow’s breakfasts and lunches. Next, they cut and weigh the apples, carrots, yams, and low-starch, high-fiber biscuits for the next day so the food is ready when the early morning keeper arrives. Finally, it’s time to enter information into the computer, such as how much the bears ate or what enrichment they were given that day. Pretty soon you realize it’s already time to clock out. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Even though I’ve had a bit of keeper work experience in the past, I’ve seen some things for the first time. I loved watching Gao Gao getting his blood pressure taken. He’s such an intelligent bear and is always ready to participate in any training session. He’s so eager to put his front limb through the metal chute to get an apple slice. Gao Gao is also very patient and definitely doesn’t mind the attention from the keepers. He LOVES his back scratches!

I also found it interesting to watch the pandas and takins getting their weights taken. The keepers have to plan ahead, since there’s always a lot to do in an eight-hour shift. I’ve learned that with this process, not only are the animals patient, but the keepers are as well, especially if one of the animals doesn’t feel like standing on the scale. If they don’t want to do it the first time, it’s okay. Keepers offer food as a form of encouragement if they decide to even stand on the scale for a slight second. Sometimes the animals don’t want to participate, and if not, keepers will just try again on another day to get that weight.

Watching the keepers do training sessions with Xiao Liwu has been one of my favorite experiences. Like his dad, Gao Gao, our youngster is eager to learn and interested in the honey water provided during his training. Sometimes he’s waiting at the gate to be let in for breakfast, but sometimes he’s fast asleep in the tree. Either way, I love to watch our keepers have a relationship with all of the bears. Of course they have their favorites, but you can see they have such a wonderful bond with each of them.

It has been such a treat learning more about keepers and their daily work. They are all such bright, intelligent, hard-working individuals. Each has their own spin on their daily tasks, whether it’s raking or sorting out enrichment and diets. They are such amazing people with a unique story on how they ended up keepers at the San Diego Zoo. Our Zoo has an incredible team of people who take care of our amazing animals.

Alyssa Medeiros is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Reflections on Xiao Liwu.

92

Birthday Bonanza for Bai Yun

Champagne "glasses" filled with honey water were part of the treats awaiting Bai Yun on her 22nd birthday.

Champagne “glasses” filled with honey water were part of the treats awaiting Bai Yun on her 22nd birthday.

The San Diego Zoo’s forage team was so excited about giant panda Bai Yun’s 22nd birthday on September 7, 2013, that they offered the pandas the first round of champagne to celebrate…the panda version of champagne, that is. The forage team, in charge of preparing the yummy and nutritious food for residents of the Zoo, worked on Bai’s birthday cake for a whole month. The ice cake stood five feet tall, weighed 215 pounds, was adorned with ice confetti and star-shaped fruit, and was topped with two champagne flutes made from ice and bamboo. The den was adorned with gift boxes filled with cinnamon biscuits (Bai’s favorite) and piñatas in the shape of a shark and a turtle.

One thing is clear after the day’s activities: Bai Yun is a gal who knows what she wants and knows how to get it—the birthday bear went straight for the fresh yams and apples first, meticulously shifting around the ice confetti in search of the hidden little treasures. She then went for the bamboo, grabbing the stalks and taking them right out of the cake for better, more efficient handling.

Like mother, like son!

The names of Bai Yun’s six cubs decorate this ice plaque.

As Bai sat down to enjoy her cake, her cub Xiao Liwu came out to share in the celebration. First he investigated the plaque with the names and birth years of Bai’s six cubs, looked up as if to say “Hey, that’s me,” and then moved right along to plunder the cake with mamma panda. While Mr. Wu was getting a taste of the honey drizzled on the ice, mamma bear went for the honey water in her champagne flutes. The easiest way to do that? Topple the cake over. A horizontal cake meant better accessibility for Mr. Wu, so he climbed atop and enjoyed his mother’s birthday treat from there, as if making it his edible throne of delicious panda snackage.

As heart-meltingly adorable as the pandas are, one of the greatest aspects of these events is the joy it brings the panda fans who come out to wish the bears a happy birthday. I always take a moment to look around at everyone’s face as it lights up when the bears come out; the combination of Bai Yun and Mr. Wu with a huge cake made for a lot of oohs and ahhs. Usually the fan reactions are my absolute favorite moments of the entire day, but this time it was a tie between a human and a bear.

Like mother, like son!

Like mother, like son!

First, the human: Per usual, everyone is clicking away trying to get the cutest shots of the bears frolicking. Let’s face it: it is adorability you just want to share with the world! At one point, the panda duo got together behind the cake, and you could see both of their gorgeous faces through the tiers of the cake, making for one of the best shots imaginable. It was then that the woman next to me, who had a pretty impressive camera and had been shooting away all morning, gently brought the camera down from her face, intently gazed at the bears, and let out a huge sigh. It was as though she was just moved by the sheer majesty of the moment and wanted to completely soak it in, she then brought the camera back up to her face and continued shooting, keeping that special moment between the pandas as a little memento for herself.

Now the bear: Not only did Mr. Wu look adorable while investigating the plaque with the cub names on it, but it also served as a moment of realization. As I stood there and watched him scan the plaque, I thought of the significance of those names, which displayed the incredible impact that his mother has had in her 22 years of life, giving birth to and raising six fine offspring over the years. It was an incredibly special experience to share in the celebration of Bai’s birthday with her legacy displayed on that plaque and part of that legacy bouncing around, enjoying the treat by her side.

Today was a very memorable day for Bai Yun and her cub, who have enjoyed two ice cakes in the past few weeks, the San Diego Zoo keepers who love and care for these animals, the forage team who put together a phenomenal cake, and, of course, the adoring panda fans who shared in the celebration with our wonderful world-famous friends.

Cielo Villaseñor is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Poised Panda Gets a Party.

Note: Video will be posted when available.

340

Summer Snow for Pandas

Yun Zi slides into the hearts of his many admirers!

Yun Zi slides into the hearts of his many admirers!

Imagine waking up to a winter wonderland in your back yard! That’s what happened for three lucky giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo this morning, August 29, 2013. The pandas were treated to fresh new snow that had been blown into their enclosures as enrichment, thanks to our many donors.

Yun Zi was the first out into his yard, and boy, did he have fun! He made a bee-line for his favorite new tree that was all covered in snow and immediately tried to remove as much snow from it as he could. He managed to pull off a huge chunk of snow, and then he plopped down and used his front paws to break it into pieces. He had so much fun in the snow, much to the delight of onlookers who got to watch him running around from one end of the yard to the next, scooting through the hollow tree, sliding down the snow that was piled high in front of it, and acting like a kid again. One of his keepers said she hadn’t seen him have this much fun since he’s gotten older! For more than 20 minutes, he rolled around in the snow, pushed his nose into it and making little snorting sounds when he came up for air, and racing around the enclosure from place to place, acting like he was having the time of his life.

He then got up and ran over to a little hill of snow, a ready-made slide, and slide down it, landing in the moat area at the lowest part of his enclosure, where he then scooped up some snow in his paws and actually made himself a snowball! He rolled over on his back, making little bleating sounds, which his keeper said was his way of vocalizing about having so much fun, and proceeded to toss his snowball around with all four feet. Quite a treat for the lucky onlookers, who couldn’t believe they were watching a giant panda actually play with snowballs!

Mom Bai Yun and her cub, Xiao Liwu, were a bit slower to enter their yard. Xiao Liwu was first out, and he took a tentative step onto the snow, shook his head a bit, and gave just the tiniest of squeals, as if to say “this stuff is cold.” Bai Yun was out right after him, and she took a short walk around, sort of looking like a professional who’d seen this white stuff before, and headed straight for the large pile of bamboo leaves laid out for breakfast. She obviously was more focused on getting a good meal to start her day before indulging in some Mommy and Me time with her cub. Xiao Liwu, still a bit unsure of this white stuff, took a slow stroll around the perimeter, gingerly putting his paws down with each step, stopping to sniff and paw the snow from time to time. He finally decided he was just going to climb up his favorite tree and take a little catnap, much the same as he does each day. His keeper was quick to cover for his behavior, saying he was a slow riser and just needed a bit more sleep before he started his day.

Mom eventually finished breakfast, and Xiao Liwu, caught up on his last winks of sleep, descended the tree and joined his mom, and both of them had a great time playing in the snow. The two delighted Zoo guests by tumbling, rolling, sliding, and, of course, little Xiao Liwu kept trying hard to start up a game of leapfrog with Mom.

Gao Gao, although in his off-exhibit area, was given a small pile of snow to play in. However, when I was there, he was sitting a few feet away from it, observing or pondering it while munching his bamboo. As you may know, with Gao it’s all about the ‘boo!

Our photographer took over 900 shots this morning, and our videographer was having a field day as well. Photos are now posted in our Panda Photo Gallery.

Cathy Bevis is an administrative assistant for San Diego Zoo Global.