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giant panda Yun Zi

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Yun Zi in China

Yun Zi arrives in the quarantine area.

Yun Zi arrives in the quarantine area. Photo credit: Wolong

Life is Good in Dujiangyan

We were all sad to see giant panda Yun Zi leave the San Diego Zoo and move to China, and honestly, we all miss him! However, we were not surprised to hear reports from keeper Jennifer Becerra (see Yun Zi Travels to China) that he traveled well, and it looked like the transition to his new life in China would be very smooth.

Yun Zi explores his new digs.

Yun Zi explores his new digs. Photo credit: Wolong

The changes a panda might experience when he or she moves to a new, far-away home include some changes in diet, new voices, different smells, and, for bears heading to China, the presence of a larger population of other pandas. Experiencing these novel stimuli for the first time may be both challenging and exciting for a young panda, and given Yun Zi’s generally spirited personality, I have no doubt that this was very exciting for him!

A good place to leave a scent mark?

A good place to leave a scent mark? Photo credit: Wolong

Yun Zi is now living at the Duijiangyan Base (part of the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas), where there are 21 pandas, including 10 adults. Reports from our colleagues indicate that he is doing very well. Now 4½ years old, Yun Zi is approaching adulthood, but he is not yet of breeding age. That said, this breeding season could provide Yun Zi with some indirect experience, as he may hear the vocal communication of courting pandas at the facility and potentially catch the scent of a panda female in estrus. In a couple of years, he may be ready to experience panda courtship firsthand, but for now, he is simply enjoying spring in the Sichuan Province.

Megan Owen is an associate director with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Panda News: The Good and the Bittersweet.

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Birthday Plans for Yun Zi

Yun Zi over the years

Yun Zi over the years

Xiao Liwu’s first birthday on July 29 has come and gone (see Panda Party: Wu Hoo!), and now it’s Yun Zi’s turn to celebrate! His fourth birthday is on Monday, August 5. At 210 pounds (95 kilograms), Yun Zi has turned into quite a handsome bear with plenty of personality. He still enjoys climbing and redecorating his exhibit when we least expect it and is always challenging us to come up with better and more creative enrichment for him.

Yun Zi excels at all his training on the different husbandry behaviors we’d like him to know and already has a long list of them mastered. Currently, he is working on presenting his arm through a metal sleeve so we can draw a blood sample from him. He is doing extremely well, and we are working on the “patience” part where he leaves his arm in the sleeve for longer periods of time.

Yun Zi enjoys his cake at his third birthday party last summer.

Yun Zi enjoys his cake at his third birthday party last summer.

We are kicking off his birthday party a little early this year. Our Black & White Overnight campers will be creating different, colorful cardboard gift boxes filled with goodies to present to him on Sunday, August 4. After the gifts have been set out in the exhibit for him, campers will gather in front of his exhibit to watch him enjoy opening them. We hope to have our Panda Cam catch them waving to panda fans everywhere between 8:35 and 8:45 a.m.

On Monday, August 5, the Birthday Boy will be receiving more gifts and a world-famous ice cake from our wonderful Forage Department “pastry chefs” to enjoy when he is let out into his exhibit at 9 a.m. I can’t wait to see what it will look like!

When Yun Zi breaks off that number “4” on the top of his cake, he will most likely be making his birthday wish. And what does this bear want for his birthday? A higher swing, a hammock, more back scratches, more bamboo…. I am sure he has a long list, and we are working on all of these presents for him. If you’d like to help, be sure to visit this month’s Animal Care Wish List.

Yun Zi when he was a wee cub

Yun Zi when he was a wee cub

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