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pandas keep cool

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A Mister for Every Panda

Xiao Liwu gets comfy in the tree.

How can he rest like that?

As we move into warmer days, I know a few people watching Panda Cam have commented about seeing some “smoke” in the exhibit. Do not be alarmed! What you see are water misters we have for each panda exhibit. In the wild, these bears do deal with extreme cold in the winter and in the summer experience extreme humidity, but here in San Diego they have been a little spoiled with the nice weather that they so often enjoy.

As we head into summer, keepers have some tools to ensure that our animals are comfortable and can relax to get a break from the heat. The number one enrichment item for the summer is ice. On those hot days, keepers like to go raid the food stands for their ice to give “their” animals something cool to flop down on or sit in. We also make popsicles for them; pandas get applesauce, honey, and chunks of fruit in water that is frozen overnight. For a lot of the Zoo’s carnivores, we make “bloodsicles,” using the juice from the meat they are given, as a cool treat.

Another tool at our disposal is the mister, and it can do multiple things for the exhibit and animal. A mister can keep the dust down in the enclosure and make it easier for the keepers to clean. It also creates a cool place for the animal to sleep in so they can stay out on exhibit for our guests to see. If the area gets too warm, the pandas do have air-conditioned bedrooms as well. I always like to remind everyone that our animals’ well being does come first.

Everyone stay cool out there!

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

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Location, Location

Su Lin

Hot weather has finally arrived in San Diego (hot, at least by our standards) but it’s staying somewhat cooler in Panda Canyon, at least for the pandas. Su Lin is back out on exhibit, as many of you have noticed, and often retreats to the cool, quiet front corner on top of the drain to nap. Zhen Zhen has been napping mornings in the favored elm tree, retreating to the shady corner near the exhibit bedroom as it gets cooler. Keepers have turned on the fans to blow in the mist as needed, and even we panda narrators are being refreshed by a nearly constant breeze coming up the canyon.

It’s sunnier in the back areas where Bai Yun and Gao Gao are being housed, but they’ve been given the option of coming in to nap in the air conditioning, and Bai has been lounging in the high drama of the moment: what good is being on “pregnancy watch” if you can’t play it up for all it’s worth? Her ultrasounds continue, but it is still a hot time for all the fuzzy critters here at the Zoo.

It’s National Zookeeper’s Week and our keepers are certainly earning the deserved accolades as they work to keep the animals comfortable, enriched, clean, and fed no matter what the weather. The San Diego American Association of Zoo Keepers Chapter is sponsoring a booth in the Zoo this week to answer questions and educate people to just how much is involved in that profession today; it’s not just about playing with the animals.

If you’re visiting your local zoo this week, take a moment to thank these dedicated, highly trained individuals for the care they take with the furry, feathered, and scaly cohabiters of this planet for the delight and education of all of us.

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

Note: Birthday “cakes” for Su Lin and Zhen Zhen will be served on Monday, August 3, at 9 a.m. We hope many of you can come and watch in person. If not, be sure to tune in to Panda Cam!