panda fans


Poised Panda Gets a Party

Yun Zi's birthday cake didn't stay this way for long!

Yun Zi’s birthday cake didn’t stay this way for long!

The ever-popular Yun Zi made his fourth birthday wish this morning after knocking down the number atop his birthday cake, which is this panda’s annual ritual in lieu of blowing out candles. While the partygoers waited anxiously to welcome him, little did the birthday boy know that upon entering his exhibit he would be greeted with a panda party. His enclosure was decorated with gift boxes full of Bermuda grass and biscuits, a cardboard panda and turtle, a 150-pound cake, and, of course, his attentive fan club, decked out in panda hats and Yun Zi T-shirts.

After getting a little taste of his cake, he made sure to have his bamboo breakfast first and then a bit more of the treat for dessert. Yun Zi’s cake was a four-tiered work of art made of ice, filled with apples and carrots, drizzled with honey, and decorated with yam frosting and bamboo.

But while he was a good boy and had his breakfast before fully indulging in dessert, he sure lived up to his reputation as a busy boy and destructive re-decorator, knocking over his cake and ripping open his gifts like a toddler on Christmas morning.

Unlike his baby brother, who celebrated his first birthday last week, it seemed that climbing the cake was beneath this poised panda, as he placed one paw on the cake for posterity while leaning it closer to his snout so he could get a better angle on the treat, eventually toppling the whole thing over. Yun Zi was also very particular about the parts of the cake he wanted to enjoy first; he went for the red apple-flavored pieces first, as this is his favorite fruit.

Always a performer, the 4-year-old panda got the most laughs from the crowd when he climbed, head first, inside his cardboard panda gift box and then ripped it open, as if revealing himself to his adoring fans. That, however, was not the only laugh he got out of his fan club, which included a young boy who had been studying Mandarin Chinese and was so proud to be able to say “hello” to the cub in his native language; “Ni hao, Yun Zi” said the little guy, barely able to pronounce the “o” in “hao” because of the huge smile on his face.

Yun Zi over the years

Yun Zi over the years

While the smiles, laughs and “ooh” and “aahs” made the joy of this celebration palpable, I think all of the panda fans’ thoughts and feelings can best be expressed by the words of a gentleman I overhead while watching Yun Zi this morning: he walked over to the glass, took one look at the birthday boy, and simply said “What a guy.”

Cielo Villasenor is a public relations representative for San Diego Zoo Global.


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.


Black and White Fun

Hello, Black & White Overnighters!
I hope you are all caught up on sleep after what I have heard was a wonderful weekend (August 21 to 22) at the San Diego Zoo! Though I, unfortunately, could not be there for the big event, Sunni (your manager that evening), as well as Tristen, Mya, Robyn, and Kristina filled me in on the fun that was had by all. I heard that Suzanne Hall’s talk was a huge hit, as were the panda birthday cakes, enrichment making, and, of course, the pandas themselves and panda keeper talk on Sunday morning!

We wanted to start this blog post as a place where you could all share your personal highlights and re-cap the weekend’s events for panda fans unable to attend. I encourage you to let us know what you thought and to also let other panda fans know where they can see your photos or get in touch with new and old friends. Remember, the Zoo has a flickr.com page where you can post pictures to share – http://www.flickr.com/groups/sandiegozoo/ and ,of course, the Zoo is on Facebook as well: http://www.facebook.com/SanDiegoZoo

I truly hope you all enjoyed yourselves. Our staff told me this morning that they really had fun with you all and that you were an enthusiastic and energetic group. We’re ready to do it again next year (maybe even offer two: one for families, if you all like that idea?), but first we’ll take a nap.

Thank you for coming, and thank you for making our jobs so much fun! Hope to see you at one of our Spooky Sleepovers in October, or at the Black & White Overnight next year!

Silvan Davidson is an education specialist for the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Fan Wave.

Moderator’s note: Thanks to suggestions from our amazing supporters, our August Wish List has just been modified for those who would like to contribute to the rental of a crane to place new climbing structures and trees in the panda exhibit. Donations can now be accepted in $10 increments.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Panda Fan Wave, caught on our Panda Cam August 22.

Update: If you’d like to view photos taken by the Zoo’s Sharpshooters, click here and enter code SZ0JMJX4201


Panda Fan Wave

Hello, Panda Fans! Here in the San Diego Zoo’s Education Department, we are busy preparing for the big Black & White Overnight this weekend! We’re super excited for all the special activities and experiences we have planned for our campers, and though we are sold out, we certainly want to include others, SO….
At exactly 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 22, the panda keepers will turn the Panda Cam on our group of campers so that we can all wave to you from the Giant Panda Research Station! Set your alarm so you can see your friends, and if you are coming to the overnight, spread the word!

AFTER the weekend, our staff will post a blog with highlights from the event and give all those that attended a chance to share their stories and comments! We encourage everyone to post pictures on facebook and on the Zoo’s flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/groups/sandiegozoo.
I’m looking forward to a great weekend of panda (and other black and white animal) fun. If you couldn’t join us this weekend, we still have two more adult-only sleepovers this year and three Halloween family sleepovers. We’re not focusing on pandas for those, but they are still fun, and there is still time to sign up. Join us!

Adult Critter Campout (21+), August 28
Extreme Sleepover (21+), September 11
Halloween FAMILY sleepovers (4yrs+), October 16, 23, and 30.

Silvan Davidson is an education specialist and Sunni Robertson is a lead educator at the San Diego Zoo.


Black and White Obsession

Yun Zi

Fifty panda lovers (all readers of this blog post) gathered together for the first time at the Zoo Saturday morning. What fun it was to meet them in person, a delightful group of people who share a contagious passion for our black-and-white bears! A while back, one of our readers mentioned it would be fun to meet other contributors to the comment section, and soon Black and White Obsession 2010 was born. Working with the Zoo’s event specialist, they put together a fun itinerary for the day.

It was easy to pick out members of the group: many were wearing blue T-shirts with a cute panda mother and cub image. That same image also adorned canvas tote bags each participate received. Everyone had a cute panda button name tag, and it was fun to watch as people who have conversed through panda blog comments got to meet each other at last and put a face to a name.

Two Zoo educators took the group to the panda exhibit to see Su Lin, Bai Yun, and little Yun Zi before ushering them into the off-exhibit classroom area to see Zhen Zhen. The group then climbed aboard a double-decked bus for a private guided tour of the rest of the Zoo before gathering in our Treetops facility to meet one of our panda keepers, Juli Borowski.

Juli took any and all questions posed to her during this special chat, sharing a typical day, the challenges of working with pandas, and the personalities of each one. She even brought plaster castings of Mei Sheng’s paw prints, taken when he was just six months old. Deputy Moderator Wendy Perkins joined me as we answered questions about moderating the blogs (not nearly as interesting a topic as chatting with a panda keeper, but the group made us feel just as important!).

I hope those who attended will share the adventure from their point of view here in this comment section. And I’m sure some will be posting their photos on the Panda-Fandom Worldwide Facebook page. On behalf of the San Diego Zoo and the Panda Team, I thank everyone who has shown such an interest in pandas. We still have so much to learn about these charismatic creatures, and it’s so nice to know we can all share and learn together!

Debbie Andreen is an associate editor and blog moderator for the San Diego Zoo.

Here’s a link to a photo gallery taken by our local paper of the panda fans…