panda exhibit


Pandas Move a Bit

Mr. Wu and Mom wrestle in the north exhibit's hammock

Mr. Wu and Mom wrestle in the north exhibit’s hammock

We are pleased to announce that the front viewing area of the panda exhibit in the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek is being remodeled so that our guests will have multiple opportunities to view the pandas. In preparation for the construction, we did some panda shuffling. Bai Yun and little Wu are currently in the north exhibit, which is open to Zoo guests. As you may recall, this is the exhibit where Xiao Liwu made his public debut back in January! Pandas Yun Zi and Gao Gao are in off-exhibit areas not accessed by Panda Cam, but rest assured they are getting plenty of attention from their keepers. We are not sure how long the construction will take: perhaps a week or so.

Thank you so much for your understanding, and please come visit us during the construction to say “Hi” to the cub!

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


Yun Zi and Hammock Update

Here's another view of the new artificial tree.

Here’s another view of the new artificial tree.

It’s been great to see giant panda Yun Zi’s exhibit go through so many changes in such a short time, and we are not done yet! He will get a hammock. His old one is badly torn up—they don’t last forever with all the use they get. Our Exhibits Team is on the job making a new one, but we have to be patient. They are extremely busy with projects all around the San Diego Zoo. Also, as keepers, we need to find the perfect place to hang the hammock so he will both use it and remain visible for visitors.

It’s been an experience to see Yun Zi sleep at the top of his 15-foot tree—now he can see his mom and baby brother. He is also enjoying the new location of his “lounge chair,” and the guests can now see him up close. Tomorrow, our Horticulture Team is going to help us add new plants and sod to both exhibits. Yun Zi is also continuing his blood-draw training, so we will be able to get a blood sample without using anesthesia. He is excelling with all his training.

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


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.


Construction in Panda Trek

Happy new year, Yun Zi!

As many of you have noticed, Panda Canyon at the San Diego Zoo has had major work done to it during the last year as it transformed into a new habitat called Panda Trek. We have welcomed more animals to the area: a red panda, Sichuan takins, and mountain vipers. The changes have given our guests a chance to learn about other animals native to the same bamboo forest habitat as the giant panda. The changes have also given panda narrators and educators extra tools to help us educate guests about China’s wildlife, especially those animals affected by the deforestation that is taking place in Sichuan Province and other areas of China.

Well, we are not done yet! The construction of Panda Trek has had to be done in phases, and we are about to undergo some more work. Currently there is some construction being done across the road from the panda exhibit. We are building a new panda gift shop that will be more convenient for our guests. We are removing the current sound system for the panda narrators and building an interactive station for our narrators that will include artifacts, biofacts, and more information for our guests. Our goal is to better educate our guests and make this a more interactive experience for them.

For those of you coming to the Zoo to see our pandas, we will have different schedules for panda viewing, and the north exhibit area is closed during construction. Guests can see two of our three bears during this time. Our narrators will be still stationed at the panda exhibit to speak with our guests.

We hope everyone had a great holiday season, and we hope to see you all in the new year!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Not-So-Cold Winter for Pandas.


Thank You, Panda Fans!

Yun Zi and Bai Yun enjoy their remodeled digs.

Friday’s reopening of our giant panda exhibits was a huge success! It was so nice to see Bai Yun, Yun Zi, and even Gao Gao exploring their new areas.  Gao surprised us with his climbing skills: he really seemed to enjoy the new furniture!

Bai and Yun Zi were hysterical; we put out some loamex mulch in their cave, and they had so much fun rolling in the pile and getting very dirty! But that was not all: they entertained us by playing on the new climbing logs and exploring the new plants. I held my breath thinking little Yun Zi was going to go on a plant attack!

As a keeper, it is so rewarding to be able to take a exhibit space and turn it into a wonderful, enriching environment for the animals in our care. This all could not be possible without the generous donations of our panda fans through the Zoo’s Animal Care Wish List. The monies you contributed helped pay for the rental of the crane to set the new climbing logs in place, new plants, two new shade trees, and beautiful green sod.

I did want to mention it was a team effort working for almost three weeks getting our exhibits ready for the public. With this is mind, I want to thank our horticulture, and construction and maintenance departments, and sun bear and nursery keepers; they all pitched in to make our exhibits beautiful.

Remodeling our exhibits was truly a labor of love for our black-and-white kids. On behalf of all of our Zoo staff, we cannot thank you enough for your donations!  Please stop by our exhibits and enjoy seeing our pandas in their new exhibits. You helped make this happen!

Kathy Hawk is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Bai Yun through the Years.

Watch video of the re-opening day!


Panda Exhibit Renovation

The crane at work.

Tuesday, November 9, was “crane day” at the Giant Panda Research Station. No, not the feathered kind; they’re all waiting in the wings, so to speak, for our four-day Festival of Flight, November 11 to 14. Instead, it was heavy equipment day, starting in the wee hours of the morning. A large crane was moved into position in the panda canyon to do the heavy lifting for the panda exhibit renovation before the Zoo opened, and heavy lifting it was.

Gao Gao will have some new climbing structures.

By 9 a.m. new elm trees had been positioned and planted in each enclosure, some trunk material (called “zoo furniture” here) had been removed or repositioned, and new “furniture” placed. The crane was gone, but there was still a buzz of activity as arborists, gardeners, and construction workers from the Zoo’s staff all worked together to secure and stabilize the new climbing structures. There’s still much work to be done, but the bones are in, and it’s going to be very exciting for our pandas!

The new panda furniture is secured into place.

Old familiar napping spots have been transformed into way stations, leading up to new and exciting places to perch or nap. Trees have been pruned to add more light to the areas, while the young elms will provide different shady corners. The climbing structures have been expanded and conjoined so that they stretch almost across each exhibit. It will be at least another week before the bears can return, but by then between the new soil, plant material, paint, workers, and hardware, it will not only be physical enrichment for the pandas but an olfactory one as well. It’s going to be quite the treat for them and their visitors as they explore this wonderful new environment.

On behalf of the pandas and the Panda Team, I’d like to thank all of you who donated through our Wish Lish toward the rental of the crane. It is much appreciated!

Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Sprucing Up for the Holidays.


It may look like an earthquake struck, but Bai Yun and Yun Zi will enjoy their new amenities.



Planning a Panda Exhibit

A question was asked a while back about how a panda exhibit is designed. For any animal, a number of factors decide the eventual design of a San Diego Zoo exhibit. Architects create a concept using the space available and specific needs of the animal, working in conjunction with animal care staff. Once the size of the exhibit is established, the quality of that space is the focus. The habitat from which the animal originates, its temperature and/or humidity and/or photo period needs are considered. The design will take into account any specialized locomotion, resting, or hiding adaptations. One can see these factors in action on our panda exhibits.

Pandas are good climbers, so sturdy climbing structures are needed. They often prefer to rest off the ground, so structures should provide resting platforms or forks and bedrooms need to contain elevated options. Pandas prefer cooler over warmer weather. Exhibit fans and misters can be used when temps climb too high, and bedrooms are temperature-controlled. Pandas require a small pond through which they can walk or in which they can rest when the weather warms. Mature trees provide shade, and small plants are fun for the pandas to hide in or pull apart, as well as for general aesthetics. Periodically, sod is added for enrichment or grass seed put down in exhibits, but these have to be replenished due to wear and tear from the animals and from the raking done by the keepers when the exhibits are cleaned three times daily. A cave or large box can be provided for shelter. Sturdy bolts are positioned for hanging enrichment toys.

Currently, with five pandas in residence, we have a full house. Once Su Lin and Zhen Zhen move to China, we hope to be able to refurbish our panda exhibits. We have very large logs set aside for use in creating new climbing structures and a couple of mature trees will be added to one of the exhibits. These will be major renovations and will require the rental of a crane in order to lift and position these items within the exhibits. Thanks to our generous panda fans, money for the crane’s rental was successfully raised. This will be a good time to renew grass and smaller plants, too.

The renovations will be a lot of hard work for our own staff and for colleagues in other departments, such as Horticulture and Construction and Maintenance. However, the fun of watching the pandas explore and enjoy their remodeled homes will be well worth it!

Karen Barnes is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Keeper’s Day, Part 3.

Update: Su Lin and Zhen Zhen are continuing their crate training for their pending departure to China. Their move will come soon. We thank you all for your support as the Zoo prepares the duo for the next chapter in their life. They will be missed.


Su Lin Redecorates

Su Lin

What a morning we had yesterday! Su Lin was full of energy after a short nap, playing with a burlap bag and carefully sniffing it all over. The keepers had not doused the bag with spices or scent, as they often do, but there was something the panda liked about it. Later on she was extracting slivers of bamboo from the bag and munching away. Done with that, she gave her plastic donut-shaped toy a workout, including inserting her left foreleg through it and walking around wearing it!

Then it was up in the tree, the Chinese elm on the right side of the enclosure. Up and down, hanging by her hips, rubbing and bouncing, she gave a great show. Energy undiminished, she went way out toward the ends of the branches, bouncing some more. She had a look in her eye as she checked out the pine branch extending toward the elm branch, and she went for it. Su Lin grabbed the pine branch and was pulling it toward her. Was she going to transfer herself to the pine? No, as she stretched from the end of the elm branch to the pine, the elm tree started slowly descending toward the ground! Apparently the rain-softened earth let go of the roots, and the tree fell over, resting on the big stump toward the front. Su Lin was smacked by the end of a branch but was uninjured; she began playing in the now-horizontal tree.

Zoo guests were astounded! Open mouthed, we all watched the panda jumping on the newly repositioned branches. What fun! Next, a quick radio call to the keepers and a request for the guests to exit the exhibit. We had to be sure the panda did not have a way to get out of her enclosure. She didn’t. The keepers rattled the treat bucket and called to Su Lin to come into the bedroom. She ignored them, climbing around and hanging on the branches, sniffing and digging at the exposed roots, enjoying her rearranged furniture.

After playing for a bit, the panda became interested in the proffered treats and came over to the fence, got her treat, ignored the keeper’s calls, and explored some more. Finally, she went into the bedroom, and then it was safe for the keepers to enter and examine the damage. In short order the San Diego Zoo’s arborist arrived to assess the situation. Horizontal looked okay to him, and he thought the tree would survive. It was moved a little so it didn’t rest on the stump, and some branches were trimmed so Su Lin could come back in and enjoy her redecorated enclosure.

Chris Tratnyek is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.


New Digs for Pandas!

Wednesday, December 10, marked the return to “home base,” the left-hand or south viewing area for giant pandas Bai Yun and Zhen Zhen after a 10-day absence. The reason for this was readily apparent: a renovated cave area, lots of pruning and clean up, and newly-planted shrubs provided a refreshed and renewed environment for mother and cub. And what an interesting environment it was! Not only were there new structures and plants to be investigated, but each and every smell left behind by the construction workers, the gardeners, and their equipment had to be olfactorily investigated, especially by Zhen Zhen.

For the first half hour, structure was less important than scent as the little bear carefully walked the area and the climbing structures, inspecting each new bush and every branch where strangers had placed their hands or feet, and all of the newly configured rocks. And then, in true panda fashion, she went to sleep. Bai Yun, meanwhile, entered and ate, in true Bai Yun fashion, before even considering the inspection process.

Once the morning preliminaries were observed, however, it was an exciting morning. Napped and refreshed, Bai Yun made a serious study of the new place. (She did have to adjust her bulk around the new boulders on top of the former cave, not a major issue.) There was scent marking to tend to, with ZZ following suit, serious tree marking and body rubbing against the pine tree, and maneuvering around the new bushes to reach her favored “toileting” spots. Formalities observed, it was then playtime.

We often see cubs rear up on their hind legs facing Mom to solicit play, but it is rare that I have seen Bai Yun reciprocate. Wednesday, though, that’s just what she did. Several times throughout the rolling, romping, playful morning, Mom and cub reared up in mutual play, tumbling and rolling around the exhibit. Judging by the level of activity that the exhibit changes elicited, I’d say that the additions were a great success and will keep the gals busy for many happy days to come…although I won’t bet on the longevity of the new bush to the left of the cave.

Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

Watch the pandas daily on the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Cam!