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giant panda cub

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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.

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Panda Su Lin: Cub

Su Lin as a cub during HER first exam at two weeks old: August 17, 2005

Recent reports from our colleagues in China have confirmed that Su Lin’s cub was removed from her a little more than a week ago. The panda experts at Wolong had determined that Su Lin was having trouble taking care of her newborn. The cub was removed and taken to the nursery, where it was examined by veterinarians. After its removal from Su Lin, the cub has (happily) thrived and put on a good deal of weight; as of July 25, it weighed 14 ounces (400 grams)!

Panda Staff at Wolong are very optimistic about the cub’s health and fully expect to replace the cub with Su Lin when it reaches a certain point of weight gain and behavioral development. While I can’t say exactly what milestones the staff will use to assess the readiness of the cub to be put back with Su Lin, I can say that I have the utmost confidence that they will know when the time is right!

While the removal of the cub has surprised many of us (after all, Su Lin is the daughter and sister of “super panda moms” Bai Yun and Hua Mei!), removing a young cub is not unprecedented. And even more importantly, this does not mean that Su Lin won’t be a stellar mom in the future. Panda moms that initially have problems raising cubs will often turn into great mothers as they gain more experience.

As usual, we will keep you posted as we hear more from our colleagues at Wolong.

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Su Lin Gives Birth.

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Looking Down on the World

Yun Zi

For people viewing the giant panda cub here at the San Diego Zoo for the first time, seeing him up so high in the trees can be a little worrisome! So often we think of bears just keeping all four limbs on the ground. Well, we have bears that say, “No way!” to that. From the young age of four to five months, giant panda cubs begin climbing up the trees for a nap, a long snooze, to get out of Mom’s way, and to get away from danger!

Our newest cub, Yun Zi, is now seven months old and spends just about all of his time either in his hammock or way up in the trees watching everyone in the queue line. I promise that this is completely normal for our little man! Yun Zi started walking and really becoming mobile later than our previous cubs, but what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in determination.

Early in the mornings he seems to come down from the trees to see what we are up to, and after getting the gist of what we are doing, he proceeds back up the trees. We often get questions about the different perches we put in the trees for the cubs, and Yun Zi has a green hammock! We try to put something in the exhibit for each cub so that they won’t always be so high up in the trees; it works for our guests, and it helps us keep an eye on them.

As Yun Zi gets older, and larger, he will, of course, outgrow his hammock and only be able to sleep on certain branches, but for the time being we love watching him climb in there to settle down for a nap!

Wild giant pandas also climb, and I’ve seen Bai Yun climb up to get a cub or help a cub out of the trees before. Sometimes, when she’s in estrus, she will climb up to see if she can see Gao Gao on the other side of the wall. So the next time you come to visit our bears, don’t be too surprised to see any of our bears climbing!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

Note: Yun Zi will be featured the television program Today Weekend (NBC) on Saturday, March 13, between 7 and 9 a.m. A host in New York will do a live interview via satellite at our panda exhibit, focusing on Yun Zi’s new home. The show is airing live on the East Coast; we’ll see the taped version on the West Coast. Be sure to check your local listings, as times may vary!