Yun Zi and His New Tree

Yun Zi checks out his new tree while munching.

Yun Zi checks out his new tree while munching.

I am very excited and extremely thankful to all our panda fans for the addition of the long-awaited artificial tree to the San Diego Zoo’s panda exhibit. It will provide many uses for our bears for years to come. This large tree can serve as a rain shelter, shade and climbing structure, and will be a great place for pandas to sleep.

SJ Rocks has done a magnificent job on the tree, and it’s more than I expected. I was very fortunate to be able to help in the design process with my manager and supervisor’s assistance. We started out with different tree options and decided on a bonsai-type tree. It is 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall and 6 feet (1.8 meters) in circumference around the base. There is a walk-through center for shade and four large sleeping branches. Each of the branches has room to put live plants on the ends (to act as leaves) and in a few select places in the trunk of the tree.

The tree is extremely impressive to see, and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Yun Zi was given access to the tree yesterday, and it will probably take him a few days to master it all. What fun!

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.