Uncategorized

pandas

25

Pandas: Back in Main View

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu, caught on camera this week

Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu, caught on Panda Cam this week

Pandas are officially back in the main viewing area of Panda Canyon at the San Diego Zoo. I think the cub, Xiao Liwu, is thrilled to have his favorite branch back, and Bai Yun is still trying to fit on that little hammock to take her naps. Yun Zi has plenty to keep him busy with his climbing structures and, of course, scent marking the exhibit. In fact, that was the first thing I noticed them doing when they were put back into the area; Bai Yun spent most of the day marking her territory again, mainly on the ground, and Yun Zi was even getting some handstands in there on the wall.

I’ve had a lot of questions from guests coming into the area about why we needed to close the main viewing exhibit for a while. The primary reason for closing the exhibit was to re-roof the building; after removing the old roof, additional structural repairs were completed. We also had a new cool zone pump installed. Whenever we close the exhibit, we try to get as many projects done as possible!

The first thing I noticed was how cut back many of the branches were, and they were able to cut quite a bit of the bamboo behind and around the exhibits. Cutting the branches is important for everyone’s peace of mind; although the pandas don’t jump from branches, we want to make sure that our perimeter is secure and that each bear stays inside. The bamboo trimming is also important for the health of the bamboo, to provide sunlight and ventilation. Several guests have noted that it is much easier to see the cub when he is at the top of the pine tree now that there aren’t as many branches blocking the view. Also, cutting down bamboo makes it easier for keepers to look into exhibits and possibly work with the bears along the back fence line.

Keepers were also able to put fresh soil and mulch down around the enclosure, and the bears are having a blast in it. Bai Yun and the cub have been rolling in the mulch and playing quite a bit in it. Yun Zi has also been rolling around in it, so much so that guests are asking if the pandas are unusually dirty these days. We always like to see the bears being this active, and I know that our Panda Cam viewers and guests love to have these moments on camera.

Mom and cub have been quite entertaining these days, especially when Bai Yun is trying to eat her lunch. One thing I definitely notice with this cub is how patient she is with him. I actually saw Xiao Liwu take a piece of bamboo that she was eating right out of her mouth and sit in her lap while he ate it. I’ve seen previous cubs TRY this with Bai Yun, and they were usually sent rolling down the hill! Stealing her food was something Bai Yun didn’t normally put up with. This cub, in my book, has gotten away with more than any other cub I’ve seen before.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and keep an eye on the Panda Cam!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Long Time, No See Bears.

90

Long Time, No See Bears

Bai Yun seems to like the spotlight!

Bai Yun seems to like the spotlight!

Working at the San Diego Zoo for nine years now, I’ve been able to have some amazing experiences and opportunities. One of my most recent was to go on a three-month loan to work on the Elephants Odyssey team taking care of dromedary camels, Baja pronghorn, wild burros, and a very sweet Mustang named Mo. As my loan came to an end, I was sad to leave the animals I had come to love but was curious to see how the pandas were doing, especially our little boy, Xiao Liwu!

On my first day back as a panda narrator, Bai Yun was, of course, her charming self, seeming to pose while she slept and giving her admirers good views of her while she ate. I was also lucky enough to see little Xiao Liwu roughhousing with his mother and eating thinner pieces of bamboo with great enthusiasm. When I had left on my loan, he was still just nursing, so this was awesome to see.

Mr. Yun Zi was also climbing up his trees in the neighboring enclosure and putting on a show for guests. One of the trees always sheds a lot of leaves, and it was so fun to watch him shake the tree and see how many leaves he could knock off. When I first put him on exhibit as a new little cub, his favorite “toy” we used to lure him out of his bedroom was a dried leaf. Seeing him play brought back those memories of him jumping in piles of leaves and chewing on crunchy, dried-up leaves.

As we get into the cooler months of the year, it’s always fun to watch the different activity levels of the bears and the fun enrichment that comes with it. Come see us soon!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, What about Gao Gao?

454

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.

240

Mr. Wu on View

T13_0244_019It has been about a month since giant pandas Bai Yun and Xiao Liwu have moved to the main viewing exhibit, and what a fun time it has been for San Diego Zoo guests and for our little panda boy! Mr. Wu has adjusted to the new exhibit very well, spending his days exploring every inch of his new habitat, from the ground to the trees. And when he explores the trees, he goes way up high!

Panda cubs are great climbers, and in the wild, high in the trees is the best place for cubs to stay safe. Mr. Wu can be seen lounging 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) up in the pine tree throughout the day. He is a strong climber and gets up and down with ease. Keepers have also recently installed grass sod in the exhibit, and Mr. Wu is having a great time ripping up the sod and playing with sod chunks.

Xiao Liwu continues to grow like a weed and weighs about 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms). He turned nine months old today! Although he is not yet eating a lot of solid food, he does like to chew on bamboo and really enjoys applesauce. Mr. Wu is still a mellow guy with a sweet personality, and we are all enjoying seeing him grow up and become a “big bear.”

Elizabeth Simmons is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Cub Learning Routine.

334

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.

206

Living Life in Front

Xiao Liwu at 6 months old. He has truly mastered tree climbing these days!

Xiao Liwu at 6 months old. He has truly mastered tree climbing these days!

For a couple of weeks now pandas Xiao Liwu and Bai Yun have been in the front/main viewing area of the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek. The cub is extremely good at climbing up to the top of the pine tree and has even found a spot that previous cubs would frequent to take a nap. I think moving to the new exhibit was definitely an adjustment for the cub. He now seems to have a good handle on being out all day in front of his adoring public.

I know for our visitors it can be a little disappointing coming through the line to only see a distant little fur ball, but as we always say, “The bears run the show.” As a panda narrator at the exhibit, I am often asked when the cub will come down or at what time is he more active, but I can guarantee you that there is no schedule for little Wu and mother Bai Yun! Please be patient and realize that this is normal for him to spend the majority of his time at this age in the trees, just like our previous cubs.

Bai Yun has adjusted beautifully living back in the front. I always remind people that she hasn’t been in the front since July. She has found those favorite spots of hers again and has discovered a couple of new positions to sleep in them. One of her favorites is sleeping in Yun Zi’s old hammock with her head hanging over the side. Bai Yun is staying steady weight at about 230 pounds (Xiao Liwu is 27.8 pounds) and is doing a great job with the cub. He comes down from the pine tree on his own to nurse from her, and occasionally I’ve heard her call to the cub to come down.

I want to assure everyone that Bai Yun is doing everything a panda mother should. She is a fantastic mother, not neglectful or overly aggressive. Something I joke about with staff is that this cub doesn’t get her roughhousing nearly as much as Yun Zi did; Yun Zi liked to poke Mom a lot! Our staff watches Bai Yun on Panda Cam as well, and while the Zoo is open, there is always someone out in the queue watching. In the 14 years that Bai Yun has had a cub with her, we have never had to intervene or raise a cub for her, and we are constantly amazed at what she has shown us through the years here at the San Diego Zoo.

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

26

Nighttime Pandas

Yun Zi during his active phase.

Nighttime Zoo is here at the San Diego Zoo again! This means that our guests have more time to view the giant pandas, as their exhibit remains open until 8:30 every night through September 3. The pandas will soon get into the swing of their new schedule: meals arriving a little bit later and guests remaining a little bit longer. Most of the animals here at the Zoo may get a little sleepy during midday, but that is the great thing about Nighttime Zoo. Our guests may leave and return later in the evening to catch more animal activity!

These days, every day is different with the pandas, especially Yun Zi. Every now and then, Yun Zi has a really active day where he is running around and climbing up and down the trees, but then there are those lovely days where he goes to the front corner of his enclosure and naps all afternoon! Gao Gao has been getting into his bamboo more often and is doing very well; quite often, Gao Gao is the only one awake.

We look forward to hearing from you all and hope you all have safe summer travels. Come see us soon!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Our Decorating Pandas.

35

Our Decorating Pandas

Yun Zi is a busy boy!

Each panda born at the San Diego Zoo, and there have been five of them, has brought a different number of exhibit-landscaping challenges to our attention, particularly between the ages of 2 and 3 years. For guests, it is great fun to watch the youngsters play with the trees, bushes, and any other plant life that catches their attention, because the bear is active, and they really get to see what these panda kids are capable of. But for the Panda Team, it can mean hours of planning to come up with something else for that to panda to safely play on or with while keeping the exhibit pleasing to the eye.

A perfect example of this was Su Lin, born August 2005. During a rather rainy day, she climbed up to the top of a tree that was in her enclosure, looked around, and proceeded to bounce the tree all the way to the ground. Keepers quickly got her off exhibit, checked to make sure she and the enclosure were okay, and bolted the tree to another climbing structure that was already in the exhibit.

Next would be Zhen Zhen, born August 2007. At about the same age, she would climb to the top of trees to break branches and drop them to the ground. And let’s not forget Yun Zi, born August 2009, who has actually left such a mess that it took two keepers almost an hour to clean it up. He had pulled up plants and torn branches off of a new tree that was planted in his exhibit.

Cubs have lots of energy some days, just like human kids, and for the most part it’s their enclosure that is going to get the beating. Staff have planted grass before, and different bushes, and come up with great ideas for our bears to play with. Ultimately, the bear is the one with the final word. We can’t wait for the installation of a permanent and sturdy artificial tree that so many of you have helped fund! The next time you come to the Zoo, take a look at the different exhibits and the animals living there. You’ll be surprised by the challenges our animals sometimes pose!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Gao Gao and His Bread.

15

Yun Zi Surpasses Dad

Yun Zi explores December's snow.

I know many of our San Diego Zoo guests have missed seeing our youngest panda, Yun Zi. Rest assured that he is doing just fine and is still here at the Zoo! Yun Zi has access to our north exhibit during the day, and in the evenings he goes into a set of bedrooms that have sunrooms in case he feels the need to get some fresh air.

Believe it or not, the bears really don’t mind being off exhibit and in the back with keepers. Yun Zi enjoys watching the keepers work, make enrichment, and prep diets for the pandas. He definitely takes after his father, Gao Gao, in the respect: Gao Gao also enjoys the quiet environment, so being in the back with keepers is a nice change for him.

Yun Zi is growing very fast and has officially surpassed his father’s weight. On average, he is anywhere from 4 to 6 pounds (2 to 3 kilograms) larger than his dad, putting him around 174 to 176 pounds (78.9 to 79.8 kilograms). Our little Yun Zi is growing so fast and is becoming a very impressive-looking bear. Through different phases of his development he has taken after his siblings, and for right now he has long legs like his sister Zhen Zhen.

Keepers are training him to perform different behaviors, and for the most part he is eager to learn. Currently he has been working on extending his arm out for blood draws, which will help keepers and vets maintain his good health. There is no official word on moving him into the front viewing area or opening the north exhibit at this time, but check the blogs periodically for updates!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Pregnancy?

21

Dependable Pandas

Open the door, please!

Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night…

We’ve had some wild weather here in Southern California for the past few days. Saturday night, a blustery storm passed through. Blowing winds, downpours of rain, some hail, and snow in the mountain areas left everything sopping wet and cold. But Bai Yun woke up Sunday morning ready to breed. And as always, our trusty male Gao Gao was up to the job.

The exhibits were slick with mud and water, and Bai Yun seemed a little less cooperative than usual. Gao Gao had to convince her to drop her shoulders to the ground to allow him to get the best positioning. Bai Yun weighs 231 pounds (105 kilograms), and Gao Gao is a mere 163 pounds (74 kilos) by comparison, so “convincing” involved a lot of nibbling on her shoulders and pulling at her midsection to get her just right.

Fortunately, he succeeded in his endeavors, and at 8:04 Sunday morning, we had our first copulation of 2012. It’s possible that more of these will follow. Ideally, we would like to get one or two more breedings out of this pair today to make this season a success. Even if the weather remains a challenge, Gao Gao has proven that stormy conditions will not stay him from the swift completion of his appointed duties.

Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Getting to Know You, Again.