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panda su lin

74

Update: Our Pandas in China

You continue to make us proud, Su Lin!

You continue to make us proud, Su Lin! Photo credit: Meghan Martin

With the arrival of spring comes some exciting news from China: panda Su Lin has bred! Seven-year-old Su Lin, who was born at the San Diego Zoo in August 2005, bred with male Yuan Yuan several times at Bi Feng Xia, and all appeared to go perfectly. We are waiting to hear whether she breeds with any more males over the next few days, and we have high hopes that this will be a successful pregnancy for Su Lin. Her first cub was born in July 2011 (see Su Lin Gives Birth!). We were also happy to receive some recent photos of Su Lin, and she looks happy and healthy and is as beautiful as ever!

Hua Mei's newest cub has even us hardened researchers saying "Awww!" Photo credit: Meghan Martin

Hua Mei’s newest cub has even us hardened researchers saying “Awww!” Photo credit: Meghan Martin

We’ve also received a recent photo of 13-year-old Hua Mei’s latest cub. As you may recall, Hua Mei was born here in August 1999 and has given birth to nine cubs over the years since she moved to China in 2004. It is such a pleasure to see Bai Yun’s newest grandcub, a girl, born in August 2012! We’ve also learned that Hua Mei and Su Lin have been neighbors at Bi Feng Xia.

Mei Sheng has also had opportunities to mate this year, but thus far he’s shown that he still has some learning to do. Even though Mei Sheng, born here in August 2003 and now nine years old, is a fully adult panda, male pandas tend to mature later than females, so there is still plenty of time left for him to become a more adept breeder.

The breeding season has been in full swing for pandas at Bi Feng Xia for about a month now, and panda females may continue to come into estrus through June. While each female only has a single estrus, and just a few days of interest in breeding, males will have opportunities to breed throughout the entire spring. We will keep you posted, and all of our fingers are crossed in hopes for a successful year there.

Megan Owen is a conservation program manager for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

36

Su Lin Gives Birth!

Congratulations, Su Lin!

We are filled with pride! Just days ago, in a naturalistic den, high in the mountains of Sichuan Province, surrounded by bamboo and forest ferns, Su Lin gave birth to her first cubs.  And from what we’ve seen, her maternal skills kicked right in as she gently picked up the vigorous and squawking cub with her mouth and sheltered it into her great body for warmth soon after the cub was born.

This news from China is fantastic and the culmination of months of waiting since we heard of Su Lin’s successful breeding back in March.  Not only has Su Lin given birth in her semi-wild enclosure, but she is  also the first new panda mother of the year.  We also learned that Su Lin gave birth to a second, stillborn cub.  While this is a sad note in this otherwise joyous event, we know that this is not an uncommon occurrence with giant pandas. From what we’ve seen, the veterinary staff has already given the surviving cub its first quick examine and have returned the cub safely to Su Lin.

As we hear more, we’ll share what we’ve learned. So stay tuned! And in the meantime, mark your panda-calendars: July 7, 2011, was an auspicious day!

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Su Lin: No Worries!

46

China Trip Diary: Part 3

Giant pandas Su Lin and Zhen Zhen moved to Wolong, China on September 24, 2010. Gaylene accompanied them on their journey and is sharing the trip with us through blog installments. Be sure to read China Trip Diary: Part 2.

I have decided that flying with a giant panda is the way to go! Fifteen hours go by very quickly when you have a two incredible pandas to visit with and take care of. Zhen Zhen and Su Lin were troupers throughout the journey. The “What ifs” and worries of what might happen were subdued by the natural behaviors these two young pandas demonstrated in conditions far from routine. The dedicated daily care given to Su Lin and Zhen Zhen, combined with the wonderful travel training efforts provided by the keepers, set this journey up to be a success!

The plane landed in Shanghai at 7:30 a.m. (Shanghai time). Chinese officials boarded the plane to check on Su Lin and Zhen Zhen and to review permits. Tracy and I parted from the pandas to make our way through Customs. We then were driven back to the cargo section of the airport to rejoin Su Lin and Zhen. They were both awake and observing their new surroundings.

The pandas are checked by Bi Feng Xia's vet and keeper. Due to rain, the panda crates and supplies were loosely covered in plastic.

Tracy and I met with Wu Honglin and Wei Ming (veterinarian and keeper from Bi Feng Xia). I was convinced that Su Lin and Zhen were in good hands for the remainder of their journey. Tracy donated the medical equipment she packed to Wu Honglin for use at Bi Feng Xia and gave him a large envelope full of medical, diet, and husbandry information on the girls. I handed over the behavior training DVD of Zhen and Su Lin to Wei Ming; researchers had worked with keepers to document the cues and behaviors trained to Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. I also presented a bag full of clickers, the hand-held audio signal used by trainers worldwide to communicate to an animal that the response given was what the trainer had hoped for.

There was a quick photo session behind a welcoming banner with Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, Tracy, me, Wu, Wei, and airline executives…and then we parted. The goodbye was a bit abrupt due to the fact that the next flight for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen was crucial to get them to their destination without a major delay, and there was little time to spare.

From left: Veterinarian Wu, Gaylene, Tracy, and Keeper Wei

Despite my disorientation of real time, I calculated the flight time for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen to Chengdu, the ground travel time from Chengdu to Bi Feng Xia, and allowed for a two-hour window of error to determine when to begin asking Peter if Zhen and Su arrived without any problems. At approximately 7:30 p.m. Shanghai time, Peter informed Tracy and me that Su Lin and Zhen Zhen had safely arrived at Bi Feng Xia. It was time to celebrate and sleep!

There was a significant void when I returned to work. Daily, I passed by the empty exhibits of where Zhen Zhen and Su Lin had resided. News of their successful adjustment in China was comforting, but still their unique behaviors and habits were missed. I’m sure the sensitivities of Su Lin and the antics of Zhen Zhen are being appreciated by their new keepers! And, as years go by, perhaps we will hear stories of success, just as we have heard about Hua Mei and her eighth cub, born this year!

As keepers, trainers, researchers, supervisors, and veterinarians, we build a bond and can become attached with the animals we care for. To limit the animals we work with to our selfish bond would be an insult to the plight of their species. With a big lump in our throat, and often tears in our eyes, we bid farewell to the animals we have grown fond of for the ultimate cause of conservation!

Gaylene Thomas is an animal care supervisor at the San Diego Zoo.

71

China Trip Diary: Part 2

Tracy, left, and Gaylene pose on the truck with the pandas on moving day.

Giant pandas Su Lin and Zhen Zhen moved to Wolong, China on September 24, 2010. Gaylene accompanied them on their journey and is sharing the trip with us through blog installments. Be sure to read China Trip Diary: Part 1.

The day of departure arrived, and the keepers and I did our best to focus on the tasks we had to accomplish rather than the goodbyes we had to say. Su Lin and Zhen Zhen entered their crates and settled in. I buckled my seatbelt on the bench seat directly in front of the pandas in the cargo section of the truck, and we departed for the land portion of the journey.

Associate Curator Curby Simerson drove the truck with Senior Veterinarian Tracy Clippinger, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, and I as passengers. Tracy gave me a quick overview of the veterinary medical equipment she packed in case of an emergency. California Highway Patrol escorted us for the seemingly quick trip to Los Angeles International airport. Lead Keeper Lisa Bryant drove the chaser truck with all the panda luggage and passengers Shea Johnson and Ken Bohn (Zoo videographer and photographer).

A crated panda is placed on a cargo pallet at the airport.

Los Angeles Airport staff greeted us when we arrived and instructed us through the steps of transferring the precious cargo from our truck to the loading warehouse. The staff was very understanding of our unique demands to remain with the pandas for every step of the process. The warehouse was busy; forklifts, boxes, pallets, and people were all on the move. The travel crates with Su Lin and Zhen Zhen inside, their supplies and food, were secured to cargo pallets. Airport staff carefully transferred the pallets to a quiet corner of the warehouse, where Su Lin and Zhen Zhen seized the opportunity for a nap.

For the next few hours Lisa, Tracy, Shea, Ken, and I stayed with Zhen and Su Lin. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials reviewed permits, observed the pandas, and confirmed the authorization of the transport. Zhen Zhen and Su Lin were comfortable enough to snack on some biscuits and a bit of bamboo. Prior to boarding the airplane, Lisa, Tracy, and I had our first opportunity to try out the travel husbandry techniques we had practiced . We successfully cleaned both crates and drinkers without causing a startle from Su Lin or Zhen Zhen. We secured all the supplies and cleaning equipment back onto the shipment pallet and were ready for the next step.

Pandas and staff are lifted up to the cargo plane.

Airport officials allowed all of us to move onto the tarmac with Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. The Boeing 777 we were about to board appeared magnified by our miniscule presence on the tarmac! Tracy and I were given quick instructions on how to safely “ride” the cargo lift, and we stepped up beside Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. We were slowly elevated until we were staring directly into the huge cargo hull. The metal pallets with us, the bears, and supplies were mechanically moved through the hull of the plane on tracks.

Loading our precious cargo first meant that Su Lin and Zhen Zhen would be in the front section of the plane, just on the other side of the wall with four passenger seats. Geographically moving from the nose of the cargo plane back was the cockpit, a small area for the crew (total of four members), a small galley area, and four passenger seats. Aboard the plane with Tracy and I was our liason to China and interpreter, Peter. Su Lin and Zhen Zhen were pretty tired at this point. The move from the warehouse to the plane was uneventful for them and didn’t interfere with another nap.

Tracy and I were given a short lesson on the emergency equipment of the aircraft. We were shown how to operate the door between us and the bears and how to use the amenities of the galley. The Chinese crew settled us in with blankets and M&Ms for a 2:30 a.m. departure.

Tracy checks on a panda after the travel crate is secure in the plane.

Shortly after take-off, Tracy and I summoned a crew member, as we were requested to do, to check on Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. We were anxious to assess the pandas’ reaction to air travel. Both bears looked very relaxed, so we elected to turn off the lights in hopes of encouraging a much-needed block of sleep time. Tracy and I checked on the bears about every four hours. Su Lin and Zhen Zhen guided our activities by their behaviors. If they were lying down and resting or sleeping, we remained quiet and moved slowly while checking on them. If they roused, we would talk to them in a quiet voice. If they seemed to respond to our presence and voice, we would offer food.

Su Lin was receptive to her standard variety of food, including bamboo culm, biscuits, carrots, yams, and apple slices. The travel crates were the perfect size for her to position herself in the classic “panda prop sit” against the wall of the crate and precisely strip and consume the bamboo. Zhen Zhen enjoyed small amounts of bamboo culm but was much more eager to take the biscuits, fruits, and veggies as I offered them through the large food hatch on the top of the crate. The cleaning routine worked just as well in the air as on land. Honey was a great distraction from the rake that cleared away debris from the crates!

Gaylene Thomas is an animal care supervisor at the San Diego Zoo.

229

Make Us Proud, Su and Zhen!

Zhen Zhen

In the words of the great American naturalist Henry David Thoreau, “Nothing makes the Earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance.” Recent news from China regarding the birth of Hua Mei’s eighth cub made me realize that the connection we feel for our San Diego Zoo-born pandas only grows stronger over time. And the pride we’ve all felt upon hearing this news reminds us that although we hate to see them go, we know that Su Lin and Zhen Zhen will make their greatest contributions to giant panda conservation when they become part of the greater breeding population in China.

Su Lin

Su Lin and Zhen Zhen left the San Diego Zoo Friday evening, September 24, under the watchful eye of the California Highway Patrol! After being escorted by Zoo staff and the CHP, the duo left by plane to Shanghai in the early hours this morning, accompanied by Gaylene Thomas, the animal care supervisor who oversees giant pandas, and Tracy Clippinger, a senior veterinarian whom you’ll remember from many panda exams. The pandas were acclimated to their new traveling crates, as well as being next to each other, over the last several months. The crates were designed especially for these two pandas, giving them privacy and ventilation at the same time. During their voyage, the crates were placed adjacent to one another to provide them with familiar smells and sounds, while Gaylene made sure they had their favorite treats and even honey water to keep them comfortable. Su Lin and Zhen Zhen will be welcomed in Shanghai by a team of experienced panda keepers and escorted to their new home at Wolong Nature Reserve Giant Panda Bi Feng Xia Base in Sichuan, China.

I think it’s safe to say that we were all lucky to have gotten to know both of these charming bears, and both of them contributed valuable information to our understanding of giant panda biology. Su Lin is the first giant panda to have contributed comprehensive data for our panda hearing study. Her patient and playful focus over the last year and a half has taught us a lot about the sensitive hearing that pandas have at certain frequencies. This important starting point will help guide our research into the impacts of human disturbance on giant pandas in the wild.

Su Lin

Su Lin’s behavioral development, from birth to weaning, was also well documented as part of our detailed behavioral studies of this critical period in a panda’s life. And of course, over the last year, Su Lin has displayed clear signs of the onset of reproductive maturity, both behaviorally and physiologically, and we have no doubt that she will go on to be an important contributor to the panda population at Bi Feng Xia, just like her big sister, Hua Mei.

Zhen Zhen also contributed important data to our studies of panda hearing, mother-cub behavior, and infant development. Her ability to participate in the hearing study illustrated well just how smart giant pandas are and how quickly even a young bear can learn a challenging cognitive task. And the data we collected on Zhen Zhen’s behavior enhanced our understanding of the normal scope of cub behavior, even in light of distinct differences in temperament.

Some folks have wondered if Bai Yun will miss Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. I think our best answer to the question is to look to what we know of panda biology: panda mothers in the wild wean their offspring when the cubs are about 18 months old. At this same point, the panda mother and cub will part and begin their separate lives. For Bai Yun, I’m sure she’ll notice the eventual absence of the scent of Su Lin and Zhen, but she said her panda “goodbye’s” long ago. Unlike Bai Yun, we have all just said our goodbyes, and we will miss these bears!

Zhen Zhen

The news from China regarding the birth of Hua Mei’s eighth cub well illustrates the potential for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen to be important conservation ambassadors for giant pandas. Hua Mei’s prolific reproductive output is good news for giant pandas; although Bai Yun’s genes are well represented in the captive population, Shi Shi’s genes are not. Hua Mei is the only known offspring of Shi Shi, so each of her cubs contributes to the genetic diversity that is so important to the conservation value of Wolong’s giant pandas. And now Su Lin and Zhen Zhen have embarked on the same journey, and again, along with Bai Yun’s genetic makeup, they bring Gao Gao with them as well. Like Shi Shi before him, Gao Gao is also unrepresented in China’s captive population of giant pandas.

In the coming years, we will continue to observe the milestones in Su Lin and Zhen Zhen’s lives, albeit at a great distance. And of course, we will share what we learn with their great “panda family”: the Panda Team, San Diego Zoo visitors, and our large family of worldwide panda fans.

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Pandas on Stand-by.

Update September 26: This morning, Gaylene informed us that the two pandas had arrived safely at their destination.

138

Su Lin: All Grown Up

Over five years ago, on August 2, 2005, I remember standing on the front plaza of the San Diego Zoo and seeing several local news vans and news anchors getting ready to make an important announcement! I had heard early that morning that our female giant panda, Bai Yun, had given birth to her third panda cub. We didn’t know the sex of the cub, we hadn’t heard really any specifics, but we were excited for another addition to our group of giant pandas. I began narrating at the panda exhibit a few months later and remember watching our little Su Lin learning to climb and get to know her new exhibit. I was hooked on that little bear! My first cub to watch, and I couldn’t get enough of her. She was sweet, playful, and so funny to watch tumble around her exhibit.

As I watched her grow and become reproductively mature, there was no denying that she was Bai Yun’s daughter. The same dramatic behaviors, and yet a willingness to please her keepers and do as she was asked. As she got older, Su Lin began participating in more training sessions with her keepers and eventually was the first to participate in the giant panda hearing study.

Even though we could see that mature female working with our hearing study, there was still that little cub that liked to mess around her enclosure. She demonstrated that very well last winter when she decided to redecorate her enclosure by knocking down one of her trees! Perfect conditions for it: wind, rain, and enough weight to ride it all the way down!

We will miss our funny bear! But we are so happy that she will have the opportunity to go to China with her younger sister Zhen Zhen and become part of the giant panda conservation effort by, hopefully, having her own cubs!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Decision Maker Bai Yun.

Note: 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.

Below is our panda growth chart, showing all five panda cubs born at the San Diego Zoo from newborns to one year olds:

147

Pandas on Stand-By

Su Lin

We have spent a good part of the summer gearing up for the departure of our beloved young female pandas, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. The news of their imminent departure hit us all hard, and even though we knew it was for the best, no one was looking forward to saying goodbye. Well, August has turned to September, and Su Lin and Zhen Zhen have not yet left on their voyage to China.

A twist of fate has extended the pandas’ time here at the San Diego Zoo: they were scheduled to travel through Shanghai, but we have since learned that the overlap of their scheduled arrival with the Shanghai World Exposition would not be feasible given the necessary logistics of ensuring security for the pandas at the heightened security level for the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. This delay and trying to rework the travel plans for the pandas has certainly been a challenge for the folks here at the San Diego Zoo who are responsible for the logistics of their trip, but for the research team, keepers, Zoo visitors, and Panda Cam viewers, it has been our good fortune to have some extra time to spend with these bears and to continue to collect data for the hearing study.

We will keep everyone updated regarding their departure.

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, One More Thing Before They Go.

100

A Bittersweet Time

Zhen Zhen

As preparations continue for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen’s move to their ancestral homeland, there’s a lot going on at the San Diego Zoo Giant Panda Research Station. The girls’ last official exhibit day was August 16, which means our priority for them right now is training and research rather than exhibit time. Guests on August 17 were able to get a look at them—or not—depending on when they stopped by, and this situation could change to “off exhibit” at any time. We have no date as yet for the actual move; as always, we’ll let you know when it happens.

What is all this training and research? Previous bloggers have addressed this, but in brief, the training is designed to minimize the stress and increase familiarity with the travel crates. Our previous pandas have moved surprisingly well with this kind of training—after all, they have their biscuits, bamboo, and friendly faces with them. Aside from a comfy place to nap, what more could they ask for? While the bears fly cargo, they always go escorted by someone they know who checks on them on a nearly hourly basis. For Mei Sheng, the trip to Wolong took about 21 hours, all in; I believe it’s a bit less to Bi Feng Xia. Getting cozy in their crates means that they have to spend time in them, hence the time now spent “off exhibit.”

Then there’s the issue of diet. Anyone who’s traveled, whether domestically or abroad, can relate to the fact that food is different wherever you go—it’s one of the things that makes travel so interesting, although it can be a challenge. The girls are transitioning to the steamed bamboo bread that they’ll be receiving in China, in addition to all the fresh bamboo they can eat, and the keepers report that the diet transition going well. This, too, is to minimize the “strange” in their new home.

And the research? There is hearing study data to continue to collect while we can, records to update, and videos to make to document training and husbandry procedures here so that their Chinese keepers will be better able to understand their precious charges and minimize the “language barrier” of new behaviors on both the part of the keepers and these new, unfamiliar bears.

In the past, we’ve had panda cubs remain here longer than three years, but it has always been part of our research agreement that the Chinese may move the bears after their third birthdays. It has been our good fortune to have Hua Mei, Mei Sheng, and Su Lin stay longer, but Zhen Zhen’s journey at just three years old is good fortune in its own way. It is difficult to introduce adult pandas to one another outside of breeding season, but subadults like ZZ can be found interacting in the wild, as well as in managed care, until maturity. None of our previous cubs have had this opportunity, since they were always larger and older, but perhaps ZZ can be introduced to playmates over the next year or so. Should this happen, she’ll have had a different experience than our previous cubs. This in itself offers yet another opportunity to learn about the development of young pandas, adding another important piece to the puzzle of the panda.

Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Days of Summer.

173

One More Thing Before They Go

Su Lin

For the past year, Su Lin has been the primary subject of our giant panda hearing study. About six months ago, Zhen Zhen began her participation in earnest, and for the last two months, she has been showing us what a three-year-old panda can hear. Data that we’ve collected from both of these bears are unprecedented and mark the first glimpse into the auditory world of the giant panda.

While keepers are working hard to make sure Su Lin and Zhen Zhen are ready for their upcoming adventure and transition to life at the Bi Feng Xia base in Sichuan, China, our research team is also working hard collecting every last scrap of data we can on this pair! Our hearing study requires a collaborative effort between researchers, keepers, and bears, and very few other facilities anywhere in the world have the combination of resources that allows the pursuit of such research. We are very proud of our collaborative efforts and are going to miss working so closely with Su Lin and Zhen Zhen.

We began the hearing study on giant pandas about two years ago, with Bai Yun as our main subject. In the month before she gave birth to Yun Zi, Bai Yun decided that she wasn’t interested in our research anymore! Of course, we obliged her desire to be left alone and shifted our focus to Su Lin; she showed us her hearing was perhaps even more sensitive than that of her mom. Over the course of the last year or so, we have been able to collect a lot of data on Su Lin and, when our analyses are complete, we should be able to produce a comprehensive description of panda hearing—an unparalleled achievement.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had as much time to work with Zhen Zhen, but we have been able to pinpoint some important frequencies to test, and her data will make a very interesting comparison: Zhen Zhen’s young ears are in perfect shape, but are her listening skills as sharp as her older sister’s? Again, when the analyses are complete, we’ll have more answers.

Over the next week or so, we will work with Su Lin and Zhen Zhen as much as we can. The data are, of course, important, but the time the keepers and researchers get to spend with the bears is something to cherish.

After Su Lin and Zhen Zhen leave San Diego, we will reintegrate Bai Yun into the study and incorporate Gao Gao as well. Gao Gao has been working with keepers and getting ready to be a part of the study for some months now, and we are all looking forward to having a chance to work with him and study his ears as well.

Megan Owen is a conservation program specialist for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, New Chapter for Su Lin, Zhen Zhen.

85

Our Good-bye Girls

Zhen Zhen

I have read with some sympathy the many, many comments, questions, and concerns you have posted in the last few days in response to news that our two youngest girls are heading back to China very soon. I wanted to take a moment to address some of the issues you have raised and offer further insight into this important transition for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen.

Currently, both girls are undergoing another transition, from biscuits to bamboo bread. The bread is what the bears are fed in China, and to minimize the stress of the move, we want them acclimated to this dietary change as much as possible before they leave. Thus far, little Zhen Zhen is taking to the bread with a little more enthusiasm than her big sister.

When the bears are transported, they will not be sedated for the journey. This is the primary reason for crate training; once the crate is a familiar environment, they will enter it willingly and be comfortable when inside. A seasoned and familiar handler will travel with the bears, and job one will be to keep the girls calm and happy. Experience has shown us that supplying copious amounts of fresh bamboo during the flight goes a long way toward making this a successful voyage.

The other bears we have returned to China have been great successes: Hua Mei has been a twinning superstar, and as a result, she has given birth to more cubs than her mother; Mei Sheng was the youngest male on record—at less than five years of age—to copulate with a female. Mei Sheng participated in the 2010 breeding season and stands a good shot of being a daddy this year. I am sure Su Lin and Zhen Zhen will also do well in their native land.

The loss of our girls has another silver lining beyond those mentioned above: Gao Gao will make a return to the exhibit areas in fairly short order. Due to our need to house Su Lin up front in order to facilitate the hearing study, our patriarch has been behind the scenes for many months, and I know he has many fans that would love to see him again.

I appreciate your bond with our panda youngsters. Those of us who work with them are not immune to their charms. So much of our lives—and our time—is invested in these animals. That they would leave us one day was understood. That they will make us proud is inevitable.

China has embarked on a new plan to release pandas to the wild, one in which captive-bred females will give birth to their young in a semi-wild enclosure, and those unadulterated cubs will grow to be wild bears that will live their whole lives outside of the breeding center. Someday, one of Gao Gao’s descendants may wander the mountain passes of the Wolong Reserve. That would truly be a great end to the story begun in San Diego.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Bamboo Feeding Basics.