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Panda Cam


The members of our giant panda care team typically leave the Zoo by about 5:30 EST. Lights are dimmed in the building at night after everyone goes to bed.
    Thanks to Animal Planet, fans can be part of the daily lives of Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas, no matter where in the world they’re watching! PandaCam will be running 24 hours a day.    
Panda Updates

Friday, February 5
You may not realize, but pandas have to get routine vaccinations just like our pets, or even us. Yesterday morning, all four giant pandas received a vaccination from vet staff. So how in the world does one go about giving a panda a shot? Well, it's achieved through positive reinforcement training!

There are two ways that our pandas can receive vaccinations. Both Lun Lun and Yang Yang are trained to present either shoulder and accept a vaccination (for a reward, of course). Mei Lun and Mei Huan are continuing to learn what we call "maintenance" behaviors, which are behaviors that will allow them to choose to participate in their own veterinary care. Presenting their shoulder is one maintenance behavior that the girls haven't quite mastered yet, so we can't just expect them to come over and give them their injection at the mesh like we can for the adults. They will, however, enter our training cage, which has doors that close and can be pulled into the hallway. This allows us to have full access to our pandas, and since they will happily line up for us and allow the training cage to be pulled out, we were able to give them their vaccinations easily as well. All four pandas were absolute rock stars at receiving their vaccinations! Training is easily one of my favorite parts of being a zookeeper. It allows us to spend one-on-one time bonding with the animals, it gives the animals the choice to participate, and it helps us take better care of them without unnecessary stress! I'm so proud of these pandas, the keeper staff, and our veterinary team!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, February 1
All of our animals here at the Zoo receive enrichment every day. Enrichment opportunities are grouped into different categories, and the categories are rotated to provide different opportunities each day. On top of this, we also will offer different enrichment opportunities throughout the day. Manipulative enrichment is, by far, my favorite type of enrichment. I recently decided to raid our enrichment shed for items ("toys") for the giant pandas to get throughout the day. The giant pandas are usually at least mildly appreciative of our efforts to stimulate and engage them, but one item that I offered Yang Yang was a big hit!  I grabbed a honeycomb feeder toy from the enrichment shed, and we stuffed it with a little bit of hay and biscuits. We placed it on the ground, and he seemed to care about it long enough to knock all the biscuits out and eat them. For his next feeding, I decided to reoffer the same item, but this time I put it on top of the climbing structure in his habitat. He found the honeycomb and proceeded to pick it up in his mouth and shake it around. He played with it for a good 15 minutes, even after the biscuits had all fallen out. I love to see the animals engaged and playing with their enrichment!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, January 29
We've been training in new folks in Mammals these last few weeks, which means I've been spending more time working in the meat-eating side of the Carnivore Department to accommodate the crazy schedule.  I enjoy my time over there, as it is nice to do something different and interact with coworkers I don't get to work with in PandaLand. And the animals are ridiculously cute as well of course!  I never turn away a chance to hang out with and feed a slice of banana to Marvin the "Marvelous and Magnificent Mighty Muntjac.” He used to live in the red panda habitat with our previous female red panda Shandy.  Idgie doesn't appreciate having a bunk-mate, so he was moved over to the meat-eating side of Carnivores to get spoiled some more. Now I'm back in Pandas for a few days, which is equally as nice because I do miss these black and white (and red) fluffballs! I can't complain about my job, because I have the opportunity to work with some endearing animals (and keepers)!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, January 27
The pandas got snow over the weekend! Okay, really it was just a slight dusting that melted pretty quickly, but the cubs didn't care. Unfortunately because it was such a small amount that didn't last, only the twins got a chance to experience it this time around. They went out into the habitat first thing in the morning when the only accumulation was from the previous night and was only on the structure. It took them quite some time to find it as they were pretty content with their bamboo. Mei Huan, of course, found it first and was curiously scratching at it. Then the flurries began falling! Soon the flurries turned to slightly more substantial flurries (if that's a thing. What do I know, I'm from Florida). That's when Mei Lun noticed the snow. Mei Huan was at the top of the structure exploring the freshly fallen stuff when Mei Lun joined in. Then the real fun began! They started wrestling each other and rolling in what little snow they had. At one point Mei Huan looked up as if to watch the snow coming down. At this point, they were really fired up! They began running around the exhibit, chasing and wrestling each other. This play session lasted at least 20 minutes. Unfortunately the snow did not last. I can only imagine how they would have reacted had they received as much snow as Tian Tian did in D.C.
Shauna D.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, January 25
Consistently cold temperatures means we can harvest a culmy species of bamboo called Rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea). Our pandas love to eat this species when the temperatures have been below 45 degrees for at least a week. If it's been warmer, they do not prefer this species.  I love Rivercane because it is a tall species with few leaves. The pandas primarily culm this species, which means they process and eat the stalk (aka culm).  All that culm means they get full bellies quicker! So, they eat less, which means we offer less, which makes our bamboo technicians happy. I'm sure they appreciate this fact because this species, as its name suggests, only grows near bodies of water. So, it can be a challenge for our technicians to get to this delicious winter species! Another bonus? Full bellies more often means longer, more frequent naps!  This give us keepers much needed time to work on other aspects of our daily jobs that do not center around bamboo preferences. The downside? While it isn't as leafy as other species of bamboo, there are a lot more "shards" or discarded pieces of the culm that we have to pick up.  Still, I love this species!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, January 20
Lun Lun got a wild hair recently! While we were finishing up cleaning the building, I started hearing some loud noises coming from her dayroom, and occasionally, she would bang one of the shift doors or the keeper door. I thought she was getting impatient and wanted fresh bamboo (though I had just seen her sleeping in the the hammock). In fact, she was playing. She was running around the dayroom, throwing bamboo, climbing up and down the structure, batting at the new camera on the wall, and somersaulting. There were only a few lucky people in the viewing area enjoying her antics, and I'm not sure if she was on Panda Cam at the time, but she was a hoot. It is extremely rare for Lun Lun to play unless she has a dependent cub, so we had a treat!
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, January 18
Winter at the Zoo is the best time to come see the pandas. They really enjoy the cool weather and being in the outdoor habitats. The twins are especially more active during the winter and seem to be more playful. They are at a playful age and since they have each other to play with they can often be seen climbing around on their exhibit structures or chasing each other around. Stop by or check in on PandaCam and you might catch them playing around on exhibit!
Jordan B.
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Wednesday, January 13
It took a little longer than usual, but giant panda weather has finally arrived in Atlanta.  This time of year many of the other animals in the Zoo begin to look for ways to stay warm.  This is provided to them by their keepers in the form of hay beds, heaters, heat lamps, or just simply leaving them access into their heated den area.  Giant pandas are a little different from the other animals in the Zoo (go figure).  They don't mind when it gets cold.  Even when the keepers are shivering because it is cold, the pandas will shift right outside and sit calmly in their pile of bamboo just munching away.  
 
This year has been a little weird with the pandas though, and we think it is because the cold weather took so long to get here.  Normally, the pandas will eat mostly the leaves of the bamboo during the warmer months of the year and then shift over to the culm, or stem, of the bamboo when it gets cold.  During the spring and fall, where the temperatures constantly vary, they tend to eat both.  This year, the pandas are still mostly eating leaves off of their bamboo.  They are eating some culm as well, but they normally would be eating the culm exclusively by now.  This is not a big deal as we are happy as long as they are eating, but all of the keepers thought that this was very interesting.  We should see over the course of the next few weeks if the pandas shift into their normal eating mode or if they will stay on with eating leaves.  Just when we think that we have these creatures all figured out, they always tend to throw us one of these curveballs to keep us on our toes.
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper, Carnivores

Friday, January 8
We’ve had some perfect panda weather lately – cool and sunny! After several weeks (or at least what seemed like weeks) of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, winter has returned to Atlanta. Expect the pandas to be outside enjoying the sun more often. Of course the weather is great for the giant pandas and the red panda, but not so great for everyone else. That'll just mean lots of layers for us keepers and heat lamps, heaters, and fluffy, warm hay beds for everyone else.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, January 6
Sometimes the most comfortable place to sleep is the spot your sister is already sleeping on. At least that is how Mei Lun felt yesterday as she tried to find a comfortable spot on the dayroom structure to take a nap. While Mei Huan napped peacefully at the top of the structure, Mei Lun tried every position on the open spaces but couldn't get comfortable. So she decided she would take her sister's spot. She sat down and pushed up against Mei Huan until she woke up and moved away to take her nap somewhere else, allowing Mei Lun to settle in just how she wanted. This time Mei Lun won the spot to sleep, but Mei Huan has bumped her sister out plenty of times too. The girls have been very playful lately, so keep an eye on PandaCam to see what they get up to next. 
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Monday, January 4
Our giant pandas don't care for the rain. A light drizzle they don't mind, but if it's raining they prefer to be inside the dayrooms or off exhibit.  Idgie the red panda is not like the giant pandas at all!  She always has access to a climate-controlled area (her exhibit box), but most of the time she chooses to stay in her tree or on her bridge when it's raining.  If there's a strong downpour she will seek shelter, but last week, she clearly did not think the rain was all that bad at times, even with additional access to her off-exhibit nest box. When I went to service her habitat and give her breakfast, I was greeted with a wet red panda!  Her fur is very dense and is designed to repel water so even though her outer coat looks soaked, she is still quite dry thanks to her wooly undercoat. She is pretty cute when she is wet if you ask me!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

(Photo by Jen W.)




Wednesday, December 30
Watching the giant pandas interact with all of their holiday enrichment last week was so much fun, and one of the stories that was not mentioned in the last post was about the frozen sugarcane treats Mei Lun and Mei Huan received. There were two blocks of ice with sugarcane frozen in the middle for the twins to enjoy. Mei Huan worked hard to get her treat out from the ice, and Mei Lun thought she would try to steal the sugarcane after Mei Huan did all the work. A quick playful wrestling match between the sisters ended with Mei Huan keeping her sugarcane. Mei Lun waited for her ice to melt a little bit longer before getting her own treat. 
Jordan B.
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Monday, December 28
The girls have hit that awesome age (around 2.5-3 years old) where they start playing more often when waiting for fresh bamboo. And lucky them, because they have each other to play with! With our previous sub-adults, we always made sure to give them plenty of enrichment and things to play with and throw around since they had no playmate. With the twins, they don’t interact nearly as much with the enrichment as their older brothers and sister did.  This is to be expected because a sister is waaaaay more fun to play with! Hopefully you'll get to catch them on the PandaCam roughhousing!  The only downfall we keepers find is that all the rough play means a ginormous mess for us to clean up. But we can't really be upset with two cute black'n'white fluff balls rolling around making us laugh.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, December 23
We celebrated the holiday season a little early this year at the Zoo. Everyone received fun holiday-themed enrichment, and the pandas were no exception. Lun Lun received a colored sugarcane-cicle, which was of course a hit. She also received a wreath made out of the eleagnus plant filled with biscuits and produce. Something new she received this year was a "string of lights." Basically, several paper mache balloons decorated to look like a string of Christmas lights attached to a rope. Several of the "bulbs" were filled with treats so she had to figure out which ones were and which weren't. She did things the easy way! She sat in the hammock and just pulled the rope. Because all the "bulbs" were attached to the rope, she didn't even have to get up! Yang Yang also received a festive sugarcane-cicle which he worked on for a bit in order to get the delicious sugarcane out. Instead of a string of "lights" he received a room full of paper  mache ornaments. He seemed to enjoy tearing through all of them in order to find all his treats. Never mind using your nose when you can just tear it apart! In addition to the sugarcane-cicle and the eleagnus wreath, Mei Lun and Mei Huan also received a box decorated to look like Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, complete with legs and antlers. Being filled with treats made Rudolph an instant hit. First they went for the legs, but finding nothing inside, they quickly tossed them aside. Next came the torso. Here's where all the goodies were hiding! Mei Huan discovered this first. She somehow managed to rip a hole in the bottom, stick her head in, and wear the box on her head while retrieving the treats that were inside! Mei Lun realized what was happening and managed to get the box from Mei Huan in order to get a few biscuits.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Monday, December 21 
A few weeks ago we posted about a plan to train Mei Lun and Mei Huan to recognize a "station" in order to feed them easier in the outdoor habitats. Last week, we started to train this station behavior to Idgie the red panda. Her station will be a log in her exhibit, and if she goes on to the log after a keeper asks her to she will get a reward. Idgie is catching on pretty quickly and is readily climbing up on to her log to get a few extra grapes in the morning.  
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Friday, December 18
Now that the girls are getting bigger, as well as their appetites, that means bigger messes.  It took over an hour for myself and an intern to clean up the disaster zone that they left the dayroom in overnight! It looked like a tornado had come through. Bamboo was completely tangled up, different species all mixed up, poop smashed to smithereens. And it was all localized to one spot: around the hammock.  They must have slept, ate, and played there because the rest of the dayroom was pretty much untouched!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, December 16
Lately we have had a lot of beautiful weather, good bamboo, and playful pandas. It’s hard to ask for much more than that. Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been running all around their habitats playing and climbing on all of their logs, rocks and structures. One morning this week they headed out into one of the dayrooms in a very playful mood. Mei Huan ran through the door and climbed up onto the structure. Once Mei Lun got inside, Mei Huan climbed down, and they both started running and rolling around. It is great to see these girls having fun. Once they were all tired out they laid down right next to each other for a nap.
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Monday, December 14

I would like to focus my update on the handsome fellow pictured. These pictures were taken in an off-exhibit area. Yang Yang is seen in one of our enclosed patios which are attached to the off-exhibit dens. Our building is a split level building due to the terrain of the land. So, to shift a panda into Habitat 2, the panda must go thru a tunnel that we walk over. The tunnel passes the patios. To access the patios, humans can crawl through the shift doors or go down the human ladder pictured. While we service Habitat Two, the pandas like to climb the ladder and give us the "look" in hopes that we'll cave and give them a treat while they wait for fresh bamboo. As you can imagine, Yang Yang is skilled in looking as adorable as possible. I think he knows he has us wrapped around his pseudo-thumb. Did we give him a treat? Of course! How can you say no to that face and those ears?
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals





























Wednesday, December 9
We expect that Lun Lun has finished with her pseudopregnancy as far as her hormones are concerned; however, behaviorally, she is still not entirely back to normal. She is still sleeping more frequently than we tend to see this time of year. Her appetite is also not what we expect it to be. The funny thing is that she is eating much better when she is in the off-exhibit dens than she does on exhibit. My theory is that this behavior is learned. Lun Lun has learned to associate how she feels when she is pregnant and after she has given birth with spending most of her time in the off-exhibit dens. So, even though she does not have a cub right now and does not have to stay in the dens, she is preferring to do so. It's just a theory and I only have anecdotal evidence, but it has been interesting to observe.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, December 7
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been playing together more than usual the last few days. Today Mei Lun climbed up on one of the wooden structures in one of the dayrooms while Mei Huan was tugging on her foot from below. They ran around for a little bit afterwards before sitting right next to each other to eat bamboo together. 
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Wednesday, December 2
As you might know, the giant pandas are really enjoying the cooler weather. Idgie the red panda is also really enjoying this time of year. As the weather has cooled, she has become more active and interested in her keepers again. We have been taking advantage of her eagerness and are doing even more training and enrichment with her to help keep her busy and engaged in her habitat. Two of our awesome keepers recently made some modifications to Idgie's habitat and indoor area, and while you may not notice them, Idgie certainly has, and I think she appreciates the effort! One of the more temporary items that was added to her indoor space is a small, plastic tub in which hay was added. This morning, Idgie decided to follow me around as I prepared to clean her habitat, so she ended up perched in the tub of hay while I gathered my supplies on the other side of the fence. I think she anticipated that I would go indoors first because she walked toward the keeper door. When she realized that I was actually going back up toward the habitat, she raced toward her shift door, knocking the tub over and covering herself in hay!  It was quite the sight, and she flounced off and through the shift door before I could snap a picture. Sometimes the animals don't seem to appreciate our enrichment offerings, so it's always nice when you see the animals actually using something you made for them! 
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, November 30
This past week has been beautiful here in Atlanta! We were lucky to welcome sunny days with mild-temperatures and just all-around gorgeous weather. All of the animals (and keepers) have been soaking up the sun because we know it won't last much longer. The pandas are continuing to enjoy spending time in their outdoor habitats and munching on Bissetii (Phyllostachys bissetii) and Yellow Groove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful "late fall" and come visit the Zoo soon!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, November 23
Everyone here in Atlanta (animals and humans included) did not get to enjoy fall in the South since it rained almost all of the entire fall "season" (which never lasts long to begin with). Since the monsoon finally abated, we've gone straight into winter-ish weather. The pandas love the winter as it's their prime season for being outdoors, but most of the other animals at the Zoo aren't as thrilled about the cold weather ...tanuki and red panda excluded. We keepers also aren't thrilled about the sudden drop in weather but have brought out our winter gear that includes extra layers of clothing, gloves, thick socks and hats so we can still  take care of the critters.  It's nice to be able to house the pandas outdoors most of the day so they can enjoy this chilly weather, even though we might complain from time to time about picking up poop with frozen fingers. It's all for the love of these dynamic animals!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, November 20
A few days ago we started giving the pandas a species of bamboo they haven't had in a while called Bisetti. So far it has been a big hit, and all the pandas seem to really be enjoying it. Good bamboo means happy pandas, so things have been going really well lately. Recently as food enrichment we gave the pandas frozen apples, and they all had different methods of eating them. Lun Lun held her apple against her to warm in up and took her time eating it. Yang Yang and Mei Huan wasted no time and immediately started eating their apples. Mei Lun was not interested in the frozen apple and opted to eat bamboo instead. 
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Wednesday, November 18
Mei Lun and Mei Huan are doing well with their training. Most recently, we have been working with them on becoming comfortable in our training cage (where we do ultrasounds on Lun Lun), which is like a large crate. The training cage always sits inside of an chute that the pandas have to walk through to shift in and out of one of the dayrooms. So the girls were accustomed to walking through the training cage every day. After only a short time, both girls were acclimated enough for us to close both doors and lock them in and pull the training cage out into the hallway. Although, they both found this an interesting new experience, neither Mei Lun or Mei Huan have been afraid when we have done this. In fact, they have both done so well that one of our vets was able to do a body condition check on them just last week. He was able to feel their shoulders, back and hips to make sure the girls are not too thin or too thick. Both Mei Lun and Mei Huan were calm and happily took biscuits from me while the vet examined them. Both girls seem to be in good condition. As you can see, all of the behaviors our pandas are trained for help us to take care of them better.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Monday, November 16
Last week was very rainy here in Atlanta so the pandas were mostly on exhibit in the indoor dayrooms. This week we were very happy to see the sun come back and the pandas were able to spend time in the outdoor habitats again. Lun Lun has also started going back into the habitats during the day for the first time in a while due to her pseudo-pregnancy. It’s interesting to see the different parts of the habitats the individual pandas prefer to go when it is time for a nap. In Habitat One you can usually see Yang Yang or Lun Lun asleep on the wooden structure. But when the twins are out there, Mei Lun seems to enjoy sleeping on a rock in the back of the habitat and Mei Huan likes to sleep by the pool. The pandas are enjoying the cool temperatures and the sunshine, so be sure to stop by and see them soon!
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals


Friday, November 13
Lun Lun is slowly coming out of her pseudo-pregnancy phase. She is still sleeping most of the day, but she has been shifting in and out of the the dayrooms reliably this week. She has started eating all of her daily allotment of produce and biscuits again, but her appetite for bamboo is taking a little longer to come back. She has been eating bamboo sprigs when we do biscuit feedings with her, but not very well on her own. It seems that processing the bamboo takes a little more energy than she has just yet. Lun Lun did participate with us for an ultrasound at the end of last week. Our vet staff were able to take some good images of her uterus. They were very excited to have these images to compare to past ultrasounds. I don't think it will be long before we see the old Lun Lun back. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, November 11
If you visited the Zoo yesterday or checked in on PandaCam, you might have noticed a familiar face in one of the dayrooms. When keepers arrived this morning, Lun Lun was ready and raring to go! Since she was showing signs that she was ready to leave the dens, we gave her the first opportunity to spend some time in the dayrooms. Lun Lun is still sleeping more and eating less than usual today, but it seems that her pseudo-pregnancy is winding down and that she will be back to her normal activity level soon.
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, November 9
Hey everyone! This is my first post here so I wanted to start by introducing myself. My name is Jordan and I'm a new seasonal keeper at Zoo Atlanta. I first started working with the Zoo Atlanta pandas this summer as an intern in the carnivore and panda areas. After my summer internship I moved to the elephant area and interned there until a few weeks ago. It has been really exciting to be back with the pandas again!
 
Today we got creative with enrichment for the twins. We set up a ball pit for them by putting a bunch of jolly balls into the big black culvert. Mei Huan climbed right inside and foraged around for the biscuits we left inside for them. Mei Lun decided she wanted to eat bamboo instead of playing. Mei Huan stayed in the culvert and played with the jolly balls for a while and looked like she was really enjoying it! 
Jordan
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals

Friday, November 6
Last week one of our veterinarians wanted to perform an ultrasound on Lun Lun to compare any uterine changes during her pseudo-pregnancy to those during a previous real pregnancy. Lun Lun has been cooperating with ultrasound training during this pseudo-pregnancy and has even offered the behavior when we haven't asked for it, so I thought it would be possible. Firstly, I had to shave her belly, which has fully grown back since her last ultrasounds over two years ago. Lun Lun got into position with no problems, and I was able to shave a small section of fur from her belly. However, we haven't been able to do an ultrasound with the vet staff yet. I am still hopeful that Lun Lun will participate for training in the next day or so.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Tuesday, November 3: Special birthday greetings to Po! 
Quick shout-out to our lovely Po!  She turned 5 years old (5! Holy moly!) today.  We get occasional updates on the cubs that have returned to Chengdu, and we've heard that she is thriving (as is everyone else, of course). 

Things have been pretty quiet here. Lun Lun is still going through pseudo-pregnancy and is in the middle of her "denning up and preparing to give birth" phase, even though we know there will not be a birth this year. Of course, we assume she doesn't know she won't give birth, but her body is going through all the changes that says she will!  During this time she eats very, very little and sleeps most of the day. Yang Yang and the twins are status quo. With all the rain that's fallen on Atlanta, we haven't been able to utilize the outdoor habitats, so our pandas have been rotated between the climate-controlled dayrooms. Side note: We introduced those colored, wooden targets to the twins the other day. This was purely to see their reaction and to let the girls "decide" which target they will learn to station to. We did this by placing both targets in a den and shifting the girls into that den at the same time. Whichever target they each went to would be theirs.  The results? Mei Huan made a beeline for the pink triangle, and Mei Lun sauntered over to the blue circle!  Let the training commence!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals​


Wednesday, October 29
Taking care of the twins is a lot of fun, but it can be a challenge, too!  On occasions where we toss the girls their biscuits from the "berm" (the area overlooking both outdoor habitats), we have run into a little bit of a snag: We try to feed the girls on opposite sides of the habitat to ensure that Mei Lun has enough time to eat her biscuits. If not, Mei Huan will steal the biscuits as soon as she gobbles hers up!  Well, hungry 2-year-old pandas don't really pay attention to what the keepers are asking and zero in on one keeper on the berm and ignore the other. So, it's very difficult to ensure both girls get their respective biscuit allotment for that feeding.  We've never really run into this problem.  Even when Yang Yang and Lun Lun spent the days together when they first arrived, it was easier to feed them. 

The keepers went back to the drawing board, because well-behaved pandas make everyone (including the pandas) happier.  Enter station training!  The idea behind station training is that each panda will go to his or her respective station target once it's tossed into the habitat, and they will be fed from there.  So, I have created some wooden station targets in different colors and shapes (pandas can see in color!). First, we will help each of the girls learn that whenever they see their station target, they are to go over to it and receive a reward.  We will do this off exhibit in the dens to begin with.  Once they've got step one down, we'll start placing both targets in the same den and work with both girls to go to their respective target for a reward. Once they are rock stars at this, transferring this trained behavior to the outdoor habitats should be quite easy! In theory.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, October 26
Yesterday was a pretty quiet day in the panda building. Everyone took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent much of their day sleeping outside. 

 
Mei Lun and Mei Huan enjoyed their day in Habitat Two so much that I had to wake them up before I could shift them inside for the night. They were less than thrilled to be woken up from their cozy spots and proceeded to move through the tunnels and building at a very slow crawl.  After 30 minutes of shifting and biscuit feedings, the girls finally ended up in their overnight dayroom where they munched on a little bit of bamboo before going back to sleep.
 
Yang, as usual, was very excited to come inside for the night. After all, inside means free biscuits from keepers!  And Lun Lun, well, she spent almost the entire day asleep in the same spot on her covered patio. She was awake for about an hour yesterday and even took a few minutes to interact with some enrichment -- a jolly ball and some Tabasco sauce -- before going back to sleep again.
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, October 23 
Lun Lun is now sleeping most of the time now. She hasn't left her dens for the past three days. She is only eating once or twice per day and leaving some of her biscuits and produce. All of these behaviors are what we see from Lun Lun during pregnancy, but since we know Lun Lun’s not pregnant, we know that what we’re seeing is pseudopregnancy. While in her dens, she also has access to a covered patio, where she can get fresh air and sunshine if she chooses. Lun Lun spent a lot of time on this patio when she was pregnant with Po, which was also in October. We have seen her on the patio a couple of times in the past two days. The cooler temperatures we have had this week are ideal for pandas, so I wouldn't be surprised to see her out there more often. During this time, we allow Lun Lun to choose where she wants to be and what she wants to do. We do not try to make her go out into the habitats, so it is highly likely that our guests will not see Lun Lun for the next several days. We don't know how long this pseudopregnancy will last -- that is one of the things we are looking to find out through this experience. As Jen A. said in the last update, we are hoping to gain more information about giant panda pseudopregnancy from Lun Lun that will be useful in the future.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, October 21
This is my first time experiencing the giant panda reproductive cycle from start to finish, and it's been a very cool experience so far. As Heather mentioned, Lun Lun is starting to slow down a little bit, and we are anticipating that she will go through a pseudo-pregnancy this year. Usually in the last few weeks of Lun Lun's pregnancies and pseudo-pregnancies, she will become very sleepy and spend most of her time resting. When I started working in pandas two years ago, Lun Lun had just entered her very sleepy period. For a couple of weeks, I only saw Lun Lun awake for an hour or two a day -- long enough to participate in voluntary ultrasounds before somersaulting herself back into her nest box and back into a deep sleep. For her, it was the calm before the storm. For the keepers, the craziness was only beginning. Because we know that Lun Lun will not have a cub this year, it is a much more laid-back atmosphere altogether. But since most mature females in captivity are allowed to breed, not a lot is known about giant panda pseudo-pregnancies without mating. Even though we are not preparing for a possible cub, we are still hard at work collecting data and closely monitoring Lun Lun's behavior.  
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, October 16
You may remember that Zoo Atlanta decided not to breed Lun Lun and Yang Yang this year. However, giant panda females can experience a pseudo-pregnancy, where their hormones and behavior mimic pregnancy. We have noticed a few minor behavior changes in Lun Lun this week that may indicate she is entering this phase. The timing is right -- she was in peak estrus in mid-June. She has been resting a little more this week and not eating all of her biscuits every day. We will continue to monitor her behavior, which will dictate how we care for her, and she may decide not to go out into her habitat. Obviously, Lun Lun will not give birth to a cub this year, but she may spend a little time in her dens in the next couple of weeks.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, October 14
Enrichment is always hit-or-miss with the critters. Last night’s enrichment was both a success and failure. The bottom of the leafeater biscuit bags contain biscuit powder and crumbles. So, we mixed the powder with a little bit of banana and some water and froze the mixture into an ice cube tray. The reaction we got was all over the place. Yang Yang picked one up and then immediately spat it out and ignored his other four “ice cube biscuits.”  Lun Lun sniffed hers and only ate one of four.  Mei Lun and Mei Huan took right to theirs … at first. Mei Lun decided that bamboo was more delicious and abandoned her two extra ice cube biscuits. In typical Mei Huan fashion, she ran over and gobbled them right up! So, some of the pandas liked them, Yang found them offensive, and Mei Huan thought they were the best thing next to sugarcane (nothing beats sugarcane!).
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals
 
Monday, October 12
Lately we have been trying a few different species of bamboo that we haven't offered in a long time, if ever, in an attempt to increase choices for the pandas. Phyllostachys nigra, or black bamboo, has been a favorite of our pandas in the past, but the ice storms we had a couple of years ago ruined much of the stands that we harvested from. Thankfully, most of those stands have grown back, and we have been able to offer black bamboo to the pandas again recently. Mature black bamboo has black culms, hence the name, and is pretty distinctive among the mostly green bamboos that we offer. The pandas like to eat the culm (stem) and the leaves of this species.
 
Another species we are trying is Phyllostachys viridis sulfurea 'Robert Young', which we have not offered in a very long time. It has a thick yellow culm and bright green leaves. We don't have a verdict yet from the pandas on this species, so we will have to keep trying it. And finally, a species we have never offered the pandas before, Phyllostachys edulis "Moso'. Moso is the largest temperate bamboo, with really thick culms. We are hoping that the pandas, Lun Lun especially, will enjoy eating the nice fat culms from this bamboo. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals
 
Friday, October 9
The sun came back this week! With fall settling in, we've been able to rotate the pandas in the outdoor habitats once again. They've enjoyed being outside in the sunshine and cooler temperatures. We're still not into the heart of fall season, but it's just around the corner. 
 
With all pandas in outdoor or dayroom habitats, this means we have been able to do some extra cleaning in the off-exhibit areas. We scrub the floors daily, but sometimes that isn't enough to remove set-in stains and dirt. So, the other day I got a little overzealous with some diluted bleach and bleached the floors in half the building. They look much better now! We can't go crazy with the bleach if the pandas are present in these areas, because we have to be careful with the bleach fumes and their sensitive noses. So I was quick to take advantage of an opportunity!  
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, October 7
The pandas recently received a bubble machine for enrichment. The adults have received bubbles in the past, and they like to anoint themselves with the bubbles. But the bubbles have always been made the old-fashioned way, someone blowing bubbles from the stick provided, which of course results in a non-continuous, small amount of bubbles. Now with the new bubble machine, the pandas can be provided with a constant stream of bubbles. The machine does not share the same space as the pandas but it is angled in such a way that the bubbles are blown into the pandas’ area. Yang Yang got to experience the new machine first, and not surprisingly, he loved it. He was wary of it at first being, that it was new and "scary," but after he realized bubbles were coming out of it, he warmed up to it quickly. He was anointing with the bubbles, rolling around, and spreading them all over his body. At one point, he was covered in bubbles! The cubs have not quite discovered the joys of bubbles just yet. They seemed intrigued by the machine and what was coming out, but they did not anoint themselves and lost interest pretty quickly. Lun Lun also seemed to quite enjoy the new enrichment. She, too, anointed herself with the bubbles. She rolled around on the ground a bit and at one point, she even stopped and seemed to just stare as the bubbles were covering her belly. 
Shauna D. 
Keeper I, Mammals


Monday, October 5
Some of you may know that I have been training the adult giant pandas to take voluntary blood pressure readings. The pandas are trained to hold their forearms in a sleeve while I apply the blood pressure cuff. One of our veterinary technicians, Sharon, attaches an automatic blood pressure machine. Both of the adults learned the behavior quickly and were doing very well, but recently, Yang Yang had a setback. A few months ago, Yang Yang got spooked, for reasons unknown, while the cuff was inflating, and he pulled his arm out of the sleeve very quickly, taking the cuff with him. He was even more frightened to realize the cuff was still on his arm. He flung his arm and the cuff fell to the ground. Of course, we were concerned that Yang Yang was afraid, but also worried that he would destroy the cuff. However, he was too scared of the cuff to do anything to it, and we were able to shift him out of that den very quickly. We never want training sessions to have a negative connotation for the animals and try to always end them on a positive note. Sharon and I both rewarded Yang Yang with food and praise, and he calmed down easily. Over the next few months, I have slowly worked with Yang Yang to desensitize him to the blood pressure cuff again. First, I just fed him with the cuff casually nearby. As he became comfortable with that, I moved the cuff closer and closer. After many positive presentations of the cuff with no reaction, I started placing the cuff in the blood pressure sleeve again. For several sessions, it just sat there in the sleeve while he held his arm still. Eventually, once he was comfortable, he allowed me to place the cuff around his arm again. Thursday, Sharon was able to collect five blood pressure readings in a row on Yang Yang! I'm so proud of him for trusting me and overcoming his fear.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Friday, October 2
Saturday, September 26 was Play the Animal Way. Of course, every day is enrichment day here, but Saturday was especially special in that we could give our critters extra enrichment. We normally try to give our critters naturalistic enrichment to encourage natural behaviors, but on special enrichment days we can go as crazy as we want. We give them paper mache items such as the paper mache lemur that Logan our fossa received. Or special frozen treats such as the giant fruitcicles that the sun bears received. Some even received special food items that are not normally part of their diets, such as the watermelons that our elephants and sun bears enjoyed. All of these items were made by our amazing team of volunteers who have worked for months making all the special enrichment for the entire Zoo.
 
The pandas were, of course, no exception. They, too, received paper mache balloons, decorated boxes, wreaths, sugarcane-cicles, pumpkins, pears and a bubble machine. The sugarcane-cicles were a big hit. They kept the adults occupied for most of the day. The cubs received smaller sugarcane-cicles. Mei Huan, being the ice queen and biscuit (and sugarcane) fiend that she is, got what seemed like most of the sugarcane, as she was the one who did all the work and spent most of her afternoon messing with the 'cicles. She also did more exploring of the other enrichment while Mei Lun was eating bamboo. But don't fret. We made sure that Mei Lun received her share of biscuits.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, September 30
With the exception of today (gorgeous!), weather has been gross these last few days in Atlanta. Rainy, wet, soggy, grossness! Because of this, the pandas had been staying inside where we could cater to their distaste for rain and offer them dry places to munch away on bamboo.

If the rain is a light drizzle, pandas don't mind that. We even have caves in the outdoor habitats that give them the option to drag some bamboo over to eat and stay dry. But if the rain is heavy or a steady hard drizzle, the pandas get a little cranky and ask to come inside. The sub-adults are always more sensitive to the rain, as they don't have years of experiencing it like their parents do.
 
Keeping the pandas indoors on rainy days is beneficial for the keepers, too!  With their thick fur, pandas are very good at tracking in mud from the wet habitats, which means the keepers have to scrub the floors harder the next day. And we like to work smart! So if the pandas like being inside on rainy days, so do we!
Jennifer W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, September 21 
We have had fabulous weather in Atlanta this past week, which means that we have been able to start using the outdoor habitats again for a few hours each morning! The pandas have definitely enjoyed this time outdoors, and we're looking forward to some cooler weather to allow the bears to stay out for longer periods of time.  Sunday was a bit too warm for the pandas, so after morning cleaning routine was finished in the building, we rotated Lun Lun and Yang Yang and let Yang Yang spend the rest of the day in his indoor dens with the keepers. Yang typically doesn't mind this as it means more opportunities to interact with the keepers (and Wild Encounters too). That afternoon he seemed really playful, so we pulled out a piece of rope that he loves to play with and had a hilariously fun bout of tug of war. If Yang is in the mood to play, he always seems to enjoy this activity. When he has "won" the rope (which he always does!), he seems to parade his victory through the dens until he finds a spot to stash the rope far away from the keepers. 
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, September 18
Most of you probably know that, in addition to the giant pandas, we also care for our red panda, Idgie. Idgie is 9 years old and has been at Zoo Atlanta for two years and weighs 18-20 pounds, depending on time of year. Idgie belongs to the red panda sub-species Ailurus fulgens refulgens (formerly, a. f. Styani, which are found only in China (in the Hengduan Mountains in Sichuan and the East Nujiang River of Yunnan Province) and northern Myanmar. A. f. refulgens are slightly larger and have a darker coat color than a. fulgens. Idgie has a beautiful deep russet coat. Red pandas are specialist feeders just like giant pandas, and their primary diet is made up of bamboo (which is why they share the name panda). Red pandas will also eat some other plants and fruits, mushrooms, lizards and bird eggs. Red pandas are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. If you visit Idgie, you will most likely find her sleeping high in her tree, or in her air-conditioned box on a warm day. Red pandas are in danger in the wild due to habitat loss from deforestation and hunting for their pelt. Exact populations in the wild are unknown, but it is thought that there are fewer than 10,000 red pandas remaining in the wild. 
 
Please join us at Zoo Atlanta as we celebrate International Red Panda Day tomorrow, Saturday, September 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will have fun activities and provide educational information about red pandas. You can purchase an adorable button to help support the Red Panda Network's conservation efforts in Nepal. Hope to see you there! 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, September 16
The twins recently received another diet increase to keep up with their growing bodies.  This diet increase is for the leafeater biscuits and produce that they receive daily; the amount of bamboo we offer them overnight changes naturally when we notice that it looks like they need more to sustain them overnight.  
 
Mei Huan and Mei Lun share a love for their biscuits and produce.  But how they eat these biscuits is quite different! Mei Huan is like her mother and "hoovers" the biscuits one right after another.  Needless to say, she eats them very quickly.  Mei Lun takes her time, and like her big brother Xi Lan, insists on eating most biscuits in two bites.  It's quite comical to watch Mei Lun when she gets more than five or six biscuits.  The biscuits seem to turn into glue inside her mouth and unless she gets a bite of bamboo to clean her teeth out, she just sits there smacking her mouth, oblivious to the world.  I'm pretty sure Mei Huan doesn't even taste the biscuits with how quickly she gobbles them up!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, September 14
Being able to shift the pandas outside first thing in the morning into already clean habitats or dayrooms makes our morning routine a lot easier. Plus, they get their full breakfast sooner, rather than a snack while they wait (sometimes not so patiently) for us to clean a dayroom or an indoor den. The pandas have all had a chance to enjoy the lovely cool weather recently and really seem to enjoy themselves as they've taken many naps outside. As a Georgia native myself, I grew up in our hot, steamy summers, but in many ways I'm like a panda; the cooler it is, the happier I am! So like the pandas, I can't wait for fall to get here!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, September 9
Happy birthday, Yang Yang! 18 today. 

What do you do when the pandas only want to eat bamboo leaves, but have not shown a preference for anything you have to offer?  You grab a saw, hop in your trusty golf cart, and harvest bamboo from a few small stands of bamboo that are growing behind the scenes at the Zoo. Yesterday's mini-harvest of Green Stripe bamboo (Bambusa dolichomerithalla) was well received by Lun Lun, who was the first one awake and ready to try something different!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, September 7
Saturday we had a combined celebration for the 18th birthdays of Yang Yang and Lun Lun. The cakes were small as they are going to or have already received their extravagant ice cakes on their actual birthdays. But that didn't stop them from enjoying the cakes! The cakes had many layers of color, a sugarcane layer, and a scent layer. They also received hand-painted boxes that contained their biscuits, produce and a feeder ball. After a quick look at the cakes, both adults dug right into their boxes and gobbled up their biscuits. After a quick bamboo break, they both checked out their cakes. Lun Lun decided to eat the bamboo sprigs on top of the cake and then walked away and ate more bamboo. She let the cake melt a while before grabbing the sugarcane piece. Yang Yang, being the eternal cub that he is, decided the cake was the best plaything ever. He was rolling around with it. He was throwing it around and gnawing on it. The keepers were watching all this unfold from the small panel in the dayroom keeper door. When he realized we were there, he came running up to us. He would grab his paw in his mouth and shake his head back and forth, which is a playful gesture in the panda world. He did this several times while we were there. Then he would run around the dayroom rolling on the cake and would grab the toys that were in there and run around with them in his mouth. That goofy boy always knows how to party!
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, September 2
What a difference a week makes! The weather has suddenly changed and we are having cooler mornings here in Atlanta. The pandas have been able to go into the outdoor exhibits for a few hours each morning for the past week. In general, the pandas don't seem to mind where they are as long as they have bamboo they want to eat. However, it must be nice for them to feel a cool breeze or sunshine on their backs. A change in scenery is always good, and they all have favorite spots that they like to lie down for a nap outside. I look forward to the cooler months so they pandas can spend all day outside.
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, August 31
The summer months mean the adult pandas eat a little less and sleep a little more. Their weights naturally drop a bit, but this is all perfectly usual seasonal behavior. In the winter Yang Yang starts eating a lot more to bulk up to impress his lady friend (to no avail, usually). During breeding season, he can weigh over 300 pounds! He dropped some weight while he was feeling under the weather last month, but he has put it back on and is in full “fat and happy” mode. The twins have hit a bit of a plateau with their weights, but this is normal as they will soon hit another growth spurt.  Lun Lun typically packs on the weight when she is nursing a cub, and we are curious to see if this same behavior occurs since we know for sure that she will enter a pseudo-pregnancy this year. So far, her appetite hasn't gone down one bit (or should I say bite)! 
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, August 26
As many of you know, our adult pandas are trained for a wide variety of behaviors that enable us to better care for them. Since we cannot share the same space with an adult panda, our individuals are trained to show us pretty much every inch of their body, and the know their left from right!  As with all of our previous cubs, we try to teach these same behaviors to the cubs and sub-adults before they leave for China.  One such behavior I am teaching Mei Lun and Mei Huan is "blood draw.” The adults are trained to place their forepaw in a specially designed PVC "blood sleeve" where they grab a bar and allow us to shave their fur and take blood voluntarily. All for yummy treats!  
 
This can be a difficult behavior to teach as the pandas might not understand that they have to grab the bar in the blood sleeve a certain way: with the inside of their forearm facing up so we have easy access to a vein. Some of our cubs have learned this behavior by mimicking mom Lun Lun when they were younger, like big brother Xi Lan.  Other cubs were taught after being weaned.  For those cubs the keeper pretty much waits until the panda randomly grabs the bar correctly and then the keeper provides a "jackpot.” This is when you give a larger reward to reinforce the correct behavior.  With Mei Huan this is exactly what happened, and ever since then she is a rockstar at this behavior.  
 
Her sister, not so much.  Mei Lun has never been all that interested in the blood sleeve.  She would get frustrated easily and while there were a handful of times when she grabbed the bar correctly, my jackpots weren't a good enough reward because the light bulb never clicked.  We were both getting frustrated and I was running out of ideas to help her understand! Until I varied the reward.  Instead of getting biscuits every other time we trained, she got a piece of banana when she grabbed the bar correctly. That was the magic trick.  After only one piece of banana she immediately solicited the correct behavior repeatedly until I ran out of bananas and had to end the session.  Even afterwards, while I was cleaning another den, she came back to the blood sleeve and offered the correct behavior even though I hadn't asked her.  By this point it didn't matter what reward I gave because I knew without a shadow of doubt that the elusive light bulb had finally gone off! It's so incredibly rewarding to have these breakthrough moments when training!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals
 
Friday, August 21 
Things are pretty status quo in PandaLand these days. Our bamboo techs have found some bamboo that the pandas are really enjoying, so we are back to having happy pandas! These summer days are nice when the pandas have bamboo they like. After filling their bellies, they usually take nice, long naps in the afternoon which frees up keeper time to work on other non-husbandry tasks like enrichment projects, working on Lun Lun and Yang Yang's birthday cakes, and involvement in many of the Zoo Atlanta committees. 
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, August 19
I "hid" some smoky Tabasco sauce around the dayroom for Lun Lun the other morning. I was curious to see how long it would take her to investigate the whole room and find all of the areas where I had placed scent. In all, it took her about half an hour to find all but one patch of the aromatic hot sauce. She rolled and anointed herself at each spot, but she seemed to really prefer rolling in the half-barrel. It was quite enjoyable to watch Lun roll and fling the barrel around. After she was finished, in true Lun fashion, she settled down to eat her bamboo.
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, August 14
We have had it quite rough with the giant pandas’ bamboo diet this week. I have mentioned in previous updates about the challenges we have finding bamboo the pandas want to eat during the summer. Well, it has happened this week! We have been providing many biscuit/bamboo feedings with Yang Yang and Lun Lun to encourage them to eat bamboo that they don't want to eat, which is quite an interesting task. Our wonderful bamboo collection team has tried a different bamboo site every day this week, but they still haven't found something the pandas love. We will all keep trying and in the meantime, we continue offering the pandas their biscuit/bamboo feedings. 
 
Luckily, the twins are less choosy than their parents right now and are doing just fine with the bamboo we have. I have noticed that pandas are less fussy under the age of 3. Perhaps this is because they are still growing and learning what they need as far as nutrition from the bamboo. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals

Monday, August 10
Our red panda exhibit needed some maintenance work last week, so Idgie spent a couple of days in her off-exhibit area. She really enjoyed being in this area and was perfectly happy. There is a shelf attached to one of the walls that she loves to rest and hang out on. We draped her bamboo over the shelf so she had easy access to it. There was also a fan that blew directly on her when she was lying on the shelf. She had room to roam around on the ground and logs to use for scent-marking. In this area, Idgie also had a choice of two nest boxes, both of which she enjoyed using. I think she enjoyed this little vacation off exhibit. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Friday, August 7
If you're ever lucky enough to catch the keepers in the midst of freshening up the pandas' dayrooms, you may notice that we occasionally look like we're very intently staring at the pandas' discarded bamboo. There's a very good reason for all that concentration; we have learned that we can tell a lot from the pieces of bamboo the pandas are eating well vs. the ones they have rejected just by looking at the remains of the feast. You've heard us say before that summer can be a challenging season in terms of how palatable the bamboo is. We work very hard to offer the pandas species of bamboo that they like. This requires close communication with our Bamboo Team, since they are the ones who brave any weather to harvest bamboo for us five days a week. Sometimes finding a species that the pandas prefer isn't quite good enough, and when that happens, it is up to the keepers to rely on our detective skills to determine if there are certain pieces the pandas like more than others. Sometimes, this even differs between individual pandas!  Yang Yang might be eating the yummiest, most pristine-looking leaves over anything else, while Lun Lun would much rather eat the largest pieces with little yellow sunspots on the culm.  Without closely examining what comes out of the dayrooms, we might miss these sometimes minute differences in bamboo and miss the opportunity to offer each panda what he or she prefers. So next time you see us standing in the middle of a dayroom, eyes fixated on a piece of bamboo, know that we're hard at work interpreting the pandas' next meal request.
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, August 3
When it comes to operant conditioning or training with the giant pandas, Mei Lun and Mei Huan illustrate unique and individual ideas about what they will and will not participate in with their keepers. For the most part, though, they are progressing quite well (albeit differently) in their training. They can both tell their right from their left paw when asked to present to their keepers; we can utilize this in the future to check their paws if need be. They both know how to “stand up” when asked, in case we need to check their chests or their bellies for any reason. Mei Lun does quite well with “laying down” when asked. However, she has not quite figured out how to present her chest. Mei Huan is quite the opposite. She does great with chest presentation but has issues with the “lay down.”  This just reminds us that they are not identical, and they learn at their own speed.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, July 31
Although Yang Yang is in summer panda mode and sleeping late most mornings, he gave us a little treat yesterday. Just as I was walking back to bring him inside after lunch yesterday, I saw him run across the dayroom on PandaCam. I took a closer look, and he was rolling around on the floor and scratching. I thought to myself, "I'll give him another minute to finish scratching.” Then he got up and dove head-first into the half barrel he had as enrichment. Ha! He somersaulted into the half barrel several times before picking it up and carrying it a short distance, then sat down with it in his lap. More running and somersaulting into the half barrel ensued. After several minutes, he got a drink and then leaned on the drinker to wait for us to bring him inside and freshen up his dayroom. Yang Yang's playfulness has definitely been less frequent with the years, but he's still got it and it's a treat to behold.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, July 22
Summer is a funny time here at the panda house. The pandas usually spend more time sleeping and less time eating. However, they are also more finicky than ever about the bamboo. It's not a time of year that we offer one of their favorite species, like arrow (sp. Pseudosasa japonica) or river cane ( sp. Arundinaria gigantea) Those are seasonal bamboos: spring and winter, respectively. During the summer, we primarily offer our staple, or standby, species, yellow groove (sp. Phyllostachys aureosulcata), and a random assortment of other species to keep them satisfied. But every summer, we go through several different species of bamboo to find one they want to eat consistently, which often proves to be elusive. Last year, we found success with rubromarginata (sp. Phyllostachys rubromarginata) and the pandas are eating it well again this summer. We are happy to find a bamboo that the pandas will eat well during these typically difficult months. Rubromarginata is not a very common species in our area, so the sites we have are limited, although we were lucky enough to add some new stands to our list this year. We really appreciate our team of bamboo cutters that go out, regardless of the weather, and identify and harvest hundreds of pounds of bamboo for our pandas every weekday. Our collaboration with this team helps keep the pandas happy, and happy pandas equal happy keepers.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, July 20
The cubs (or should I say subadults) had their birthday celebration, Part Two on Saturday. They received their traditional ice cake and hand-painted boxes. As mentioned previously, the cake was a collaborative effort between the keepers and our fabulous interns that we have this semester. With the amount of color used in it, we decided to go with a simple two-tier design. Right before presenting it, we sprinkled some of their favorite scents on it and added a bit of bamboo garnish. The cubs, of course, went crazy for it. They explored every inch of it and even sampled some of the bamboo garnish. They went back and explored the cake multiple times after the initial presentation, sitting on it and picking at it. By the end of the day Mei Huan was blue and pink all over!
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals

Wednesday, July 15 -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Happy 2nd Birthday, Mei Lun and Mei Huan!  The girls really enjoyed their ice bears with bananas and goody bags on their birthday this afternoon. They tore into one of the bags first and ate of all of the biscuits. Then Mei Huan noticed the ice bears. As if ice bears weren't awesome enough, banana slices were frozen into them! Mei Lun and Mei Huan worked until they dug out most of the banana. Mei Lun needed a bamboo break at this point, but Mei Huan keep digging at the ice bear for banana. By 3 p.m., they were both pooped out and took a nap in the hammock. If you missed today’s festivities, be sure to join us this Saturday, July 18 – we’ll be celebrating again at 1:30 p.m.! 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals
 

Friday, July 10
Yang Yang has been feeling so well this last week that he is going out on exhibit again. Yang Yang actually loves spending time in the off-exhibit dens, so no one should worry about him when he is not in the dayrooms. He likes seeing his keepers as much as possible and being able to "flag" us down anytime he wants something. Yang Yang enjoys being pampered. In spite of his love of the dens, I think he was happy to go out in to the dayrooms this week. He spent a good amount of time sniffing around and scratching on his favorite posts of the structures before settling in to eat bamboo. Of course, he had to take a nap with his rear end propped up on the glass!  We are all happy that Yang Yang is back to his old self. However, since the weather is hot, we do expect him to sleep more and eat less as, he does every summer.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, July 8
The keepers and interns are hard at work on Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s birthday cakes.  We decided to let the interns design their ice cakes, and they have come up with some very "cool" ideas!  Since the girls' birthday is on a weekday, we will be having two celebrations for twice the fun!  On Wednesday, July 15, we will give the girls a few small ice treats and goodies and 1:30 p.m. The big celebration will be on Saturday, July 18, also at 1:30 p.m. We will give the girls their big cakes and lots more fun treats then. We hope you'll come out and join us on either day to celebrate Mei Lun and Mei Huan's second birthday!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, July 6
On Saturday afternoon, Lun Lun had a rare bout of playfulness. She was running around and attacking the various enrichment items that were in the dayroom. I'm really glad that I was able to catch that hilarious 10 minutes, because it was a lot of fun to watch Lun tackle the big black culvert, roll around in it, and then proceed to run to the drinker and jump off of it. She did this once or twice in addition to repeatedly swinging from the braided firehose that was hanging off of the climbing structure. Lun isn't super playful if she's not raising a cub, so it was nice to see her enjoying herself!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, July 1
Earlier this month we shared with you, our Zoo family, that Yang Yang wasn’t feeling 100 percent. We’re pleased to say he’s responding well to all the “tender loving care” from his caregivers and veterinarians. He’s back to his old requests for breakfast right away in the morning from his keepers, and his activities are now mirroring what they were before his bout of feeling “yucky.” We’re hopeful he’ll be back out to greet his admirers in the very near future – thank you all for your support the last few weeks! 
 
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have been spending more time in the dayrooms lately while Yang Yang and Lun Lun have been hanging out behind the scenes. They have been such troopers about not coming inside for every feeding as they are accustomed to doing. We are feeding them biscuits through the howdy windows to make up for any lack of keeper interaction they may detect; however, we have not noticed any behaviors that would indicate they feel any differently than before. They are still eating like machines and napping the afternoons away! As long as they are together and have bamboo to devour, they are happy girls. We hope you have enjoyed the extra time with the girls on PandaCam the past couple of weeks.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, June 24
Many of our fans have asked how Yang Yang’s doing. Our team is noticing that he seems to be gaining back a little of his old self each day. His activity and appetite are increasing daily, and he’s consuming his medications well, which makes all of his keepers and veterinarians very happy. We’ve gotten very creative in coming up with some really, shall we say, “gourmet” disguises to make sure he doesn’t even realize he’s taking any medicine. We use sugar cane as a vehicle, and then we stuff it with banana mush and other goodies … yum, yum! Our team of caregivers and Yang Yang are all doing their parts to get him back to tip-top shape. 
 
How are the twins? With all of our focus on breeding season and the adults lately, the twins have been little angels and going with the flow. They’ve developed their own schedule of being weighed in the morning, and then they happily eat bamboo and nap until usually 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. This usually means we have a giant mess to clean up, but it has enabled us for focus on the adults a little more, which has been helpful. Fret not, though! We’re making sure the twins get plenty of attention throughout the day and still make time to train with them on a regular basis. 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, June 22
Happy Monday, everyone! First, I’d love to introduce myself – I’m Stephanie Braccini, the new Curator of Mammals here at Zoo Atlanta. I’m thrilled to be here and am excited to work with the exceptional team of professionals here at the Zoo, as well as with our extraordinary animal collection. 
 
I know many of you follow our giant panda program very closely, so many of you probably know that we’ve been monitoring Lun Lun closely for signs that her peak period of fertility was approaching. This monitoring has included watching for the behavioral signs we know, as well as performing hormone analyses. 
 
After much consideration and close and regular contact with our partners at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, we and our colleagues at Chengdu have made the joint decision not to move forward with artificial insemination (AI) with Lun Lun this year. 
 
As you’re all aware, timing is the most important factor in breeding giant pandas in zoological situations, as the females are only fertile for two or three days a year! As you probably also know from following Lun Lun’s previous cycles, her estrous cycle is atypical this year as it’s taking place in late June, rather than the February-to-May timeframe that’s typical of female giant pandas. Our Veterinary Team has been monitoring Yang Yang for lethargic behavior, and since his part of the AI process involves general anesthesia, our team has opted not to perform the procedure given that Yang Yang has not been feeling 100 percent. The only banked sperm from Yang Yang available to our team, collected earlier this year, is of poor quality. 
 
Lun Lun’s part of the process also involves general anesthesia, and especially given the fact that the AI process had a low probability of resulting in a cub this year, our colleagues in Chengdu were in full agreement with our team that animal wellness factors took precedence over the need to perform AI. 
 
We expect Lun Lun to experience the same physical and behavioral changes that are usually associated with estrus for giant panda females; these changes are all normal and are just part of this process for her. 
 
We look forward to sharing more updates this week, so stay tuned here to the blog, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest for more great panda content. We also look forward to sharing updates on Mei Lun’s and Mei Huan’s upcoming second birthday – stay tuned for details! 
Stephanie Braccini, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, June 17
Yesterday was one of those days when all of the pandas wanted to sleep for various reasons.  Lun Lun is quickly approaching estrus, which means she is a little more sluggish until she actually cycles. The twins are also taking long naps, but this is due to typical summertime laziness.  
 
This is great for keepers because we have more time to work on paperwork, projects and other duties that often get pushed to the side. We have an awesome internship program at Zoo Atlanta, and the Carnivore/Panda internship gives the ability to learn husbandry with a wide variety of species. We usually always have something for our interns to do, especially when we're feeding out normal bamboo-eating pandas. But this lull we've had these last few days has challenged us keepers to come up with creative projects for the interns to work on, while we keepers are busy doing desk work.  
 
One thing the interns have been busy working on is the twins' upcoming birthday cake! This year, the cake will be a mixture of all the interns’ ideas. In addition, they are also painting the birthday boxes the girls will receive as well. Stay tuned for more details! 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, June 10
As mentioned in previous blogs, sometimes the pandas sleep late in the mornings, especially in the summer. A rarer treat for the keepers is when the pandas sleep late, get up and eat leftover bamboo from overnight, and then decide to take a little nap. This was the case for Yang Yang yesterday morning.  He was perfectly content staying out in the dayroom for an extra few hours and even ignored the offer of biscuits (wow!). I was able to get the entire building cleaned and even had time to work on some late-spring cleaning before it was time for the next feeding. Thanks, Yang Yang!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, June 8
The warmer temperatures and longer days are beginning to have an effect on the pandas. In summertime pandas tend to sleep more and eat less. Most mornings when we come in Lun Lun especially is ready for breakfast. With the others, it depends on the day. During the summer however, Yang Yang tends to sleep late, sometimes until 8:30! This morning was bizarre. Everyone, including Lun, was passed out. Lun didn't get up until 7:15! Even with me in the building making the usual morning noises, she still didn't get up. Sometimes that is nice to come in to, however, as it gives us an extra moment to think about our morning routine. 
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, June 5
We have noticed a few behavioral and physical changes in Lun Lun this past week that indicate she may be entering estrus soon. However, we will wait for the next round of urinalysis to confirm hormonal changes. She does seem to be following a similar pattern as in 2010. So, if she does cycle soon and does have a successful pregnancy, we may have another cub born in the autumn. Only a handful of pandas have birthdays outside of the months of July to September. One things is for sure: Lun Lun hates being predictable!  Stay tuned.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, June 3 
Up the hill from our giant panda complex is another smaller lady who doesn't get quite as much attention despite being a member of the species known as the "original panda." Idgie, the Zoo's red panda, shares the panda name as well as a few important characteristics with her much larger neighbors. Like giant pandas, red pandas have thick fur to keep them warm and dry in the mountain forests of south central Asia. They also possess a pseudothumb, which aids in holding and manipulating bamboo to eat. Unlike giant pandas, red pandas only consume the leaves of bamboo. Idgie has a very refined palate; she prefers young bamboo leaves instead of the more mature pieces that the giant pandas tend to like. This can make things easy for keepers because we can set aside yummy-looking pieces of young bamboo for Idgie since we know the giant pandas generally won't eat them.  But like our giant panda family, Idgie also likes to keep us on our toes, constantly challenging the keepers to try different species of bamboo with her. We're fortunate to have several species on grounds that we can try when she doesn't want what the giant pandas are eating!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, May 29
It's really comical to watch the twins interact with each other. They don't like being separated if they think their sister is getting a special treat and will call for each other. They whine and grumble with each other when they fight over a piece of bamboo, and yet sometimes they willingly let the other snatch a piece of food right from their paw without so much as a peep. Sometimes they just have to sit next to each other to eat, while other times they want to be on opposite sides of the room, yet still within eyesight of each other. When one wants to play and the other doesn't, the only thing to do is annoy and pester your sister until she gives in out of frustration. Sometimes they insist on sleeping snuggled up next to each other, and yet other times personal space is a must. It's been a real joy watching these two grow up and see their personalities bloom. It's also fascinating to watch interactions between the two of them. We know what to expect with mother-cub interactions, but cub-cub interactions are something new for all of us here at Zoo Atlanta.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, May 27
Last week, we had a couple of cool days, and the pandas were able to spend some time outside. This is unusual for late May, so it was a nice change of scene for the pandas. Lun Lun especially enjoyed it. She ate all morning and slept all afternoon. Lun Lun takes fairly short naps compared to Yang Yang. However, on this day, she had a luxuriously long nap on the structure in the outdoor habitat. Even after she woke up, she returned to eat her morning bamboo, which is unheard of!  She really had a great, relaxing day. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, May 20
Over the weekend we celebrated Endangered Species Day. To say that we celebrated it is a little ironic, because who wants to "celebrate" the fact that species are endangered? However, we did have lots of activities and special enrichment to raise awareness for species which are endangered or, in some cases, critically endangered in the wild. The most recent giant panda population census indicates that there are approximately 1,860 giant pandas in the wild. This is a slight increase from the last census, which estimated roughly 1,600 giant pandas in the wild. This is a great success for giant pandas and is due, in part, to the conservation efforts of zoos worldwide and supporters like you!
 
Thanks to our wonderful Enrichment Volunteers, we were able to spotlight some of this information on the side of a large cardboard milk carton that was given to Mei Lun and Mei Huan on Saturday. The girls had a great time smashing the milk carton, eating their sugarcane-sicles, and playing with paper chains. Their parents seemed to have an equally good time with their own enrichment. This world would be a pretty sad place without the antics of our giant panda family, and these gals (and guy) serve as important ambassadors to their wild cousins.  
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, May 15
The typical daily routine for many areas within the Mammal Department consists of exhibit setup and cleaning in the mornings and training, enrichment, and extra projects in the afternoons. This means that many keepers hit the ground running and are the busiest in the morning and are able to focus on other aspects of zookeeping in the afternoon. This is not so for the panda keepers. Four hungry bears needing roughly five meals a day can make for pretty constant cleaning, feeding, and setup. Normally, we can find time to work on extra projects during the late morning and early afternoon naptimes that the pandas all seem to enjoy. Over the last few weeks, we have noticed a significant increase in the busy-ness of the building. Mei Lun and Mei Huan have started exhibiting the same types of routine that the adults seem to follow (eat, sleep, eat, sleep, etc.). This means that we are offering the girls more bamboo and more frequently. In addition, we are continuing to monitor Lun Lun for signs of estrus. Although we have not  observed any significant changes yet, we all know it's coming. We're also transitioning to new species of bamboo. All of these things can shake up the routine on their own, so we're in the thick of a busy season right now. While all of these things are great signs of normal, happy bears, the keepers are also looking forward to the return of normal days.
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, May 13
Recently, some folks have raised concerns about Lun Lun: "Has she gone through estrus and we missed it?" "Is Lun Lun taking a year off from having cubs?" "Is Lun Lun likely to never have cubs again?"
 
Let me try to quell some of these concerns. Firstly, no, Lun Lun has not gone through estrus this year. The Zoo's PR Team would have announced such a big event! Female giant pandas do typically have an estrus cycle sometime between March and May, and in the past, Lun Lun has cycled in either March or April. I do understand that some people feel worried. However, in 2010, Lun Lun went through estrus in June, so the fact that she has not gone through estrus yet this year is not concerning. None of us in the Animal Management Team or the Veterinary Services Team are worried because Lun Lun has not experienced estrus yet this year. Lun Lun has no more control over her hormones than anyone else does, and she will cycle when her body decides it is time. At 17, Lun Lun is getting closer to an age that giant panda females stop reproducing; however, on rare occasions some females do continue to give birth into their early twenties. No one knows when Lun Lun will become post-reproductive, but this is unlikely to be the case at this time. Lun Lun has always done things in her own time and we just have to sit back and patiently wait for her.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

 
Monday, May 11
There's a bit of a hierarchy to feeding the pandas when keepers come in first thing in the morning. Usually the adults are ready for fresh bamboo as soon as they hear us enter the building. Most of the time Lun Lun is the one we make sure we offer a few pieces to right away, as she has a bottomless pit for a stomach. Yang Yang is sometimes hungry, sometimes still sleepy, sometimes still happily eating his bamboo from overnight. The sub-adults are usually excited to see the keepers and get a little bit of attention. Most of the time the keepers can offer the sub-adult pandas a few biscuits, and they happily go back to eating bamboo from overnight. This allows the keepers a moment to set up the various areas with fresh bamboo before shifting the bears onto exhibit. Lately, however, the twins have been just as impatient in the mornings as their mom, especially if they spend the night in the off-exhibit dens! The apple(s) definitely do not fall far from the tree.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, May 6
Giant pandas are not the only animals that enjoy eating bamboo shoots. Many animals in the Zoo enjoy eating them, including gorillas, elephants, sun bears and, of course, the red panda. Idgie is very lucky that every spring, lots of bamboo shoots pop up all over her habitat! These shoots are Henon and are very large in diameter. She nibbles at the tops of the shoots as they are just coming out of the ground and still soft and small, but once they get to a certain height, they are too big and tough for her small mouth to bite through. If you look closely at all of the shoots growing in Idgie's habitat, the tops are chewed off. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Friday, May 1
Some of you may recall that Yang Yang had a case of the sniffles last week. I am happy to report that he is back to normal and feeling 100% himself again! Hopefully, you have seen him on PandaCam enjoying his bamboo. He has been outside in the habitats quite a bit recently with the nice weather we have had, and he has really been enjoying it. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, April 29
It's bamboo shoot season! Bamboo shoots (or baby bamboo) occur at different times of the year depending on the specific species, but for us a lot of shoots grow during late spring. Pandas (giants and reds) love bamboo shoots! In the wild, they would live off of bamboo shoots almost exclusively as they are full of water, sugar and yumminess. Unfortunately, we can't provide that many shoots to our pandas as we have to leave enough to grow into mature bamboo trees for the bears to eat throughout the year. But there are several places on grounds where the panda keepers are able to harvest shoots during this time of year. Cutting the shoots is a bit tricky, though. They grow very quickly, and once the protective outside sheath starts to fall off, the pandas usually won't eat them. Yesterday's harvest was pretty big, so we will have plenty to give out for awhile.  The twins, just like their parents, gobble these right up when offered.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, April 27

A few weeks ago, we gave Mei Lun and Mei Huan a newly approved enrichment item - a big plastic storage tub.  All of the keepers were very excited and hopeful that it would be a fun new toy for all of the pandas.  We thought we would start our observation sessions with the girls because they are generally much more playful than their parents. Remember the video of Yang Yang destroying his water bowl a few months ago?  Well, I guess Mei Huan decided to take a page out of her dad's book because she promptly climbed into the tub and broke it. Both girls continued to enjoy their new toy, and there wasn't much left of it by the time the keepers were able to get it away from them.
Jennifer Andrew
Keeper II, Mammals
 
Friday, April 24
Mei Lun is her own panda. We've known that from the beginning. She marches to a different drummer; she does things in her own time and her own way, including eating bamboo. We have noticed that Mei Lun peels the bamboo culm "backwards" -- at least it is backwards from what most pandas do. Instead of peeling the culm off the bamboo and eating the more nutritious inside, she cracks the culm and then peels the edible part out, often leaving the culm still attached to the piece of bamboo. This technique is not entirely unheard of: Lun Lun's first cub, Mei Lan, did the same thing. Neither Lun Lun nor Yang Yang eat bamboo this way, so it is interesting to see.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, April 22
A lot of people have inquired about Yang Yang since our last update. At this time of year, with inconsistent temperatures coupled with lots of rain, the humans aren’t the only ones who get a little case of the sniffles. The sun bears have even had a few! It’s usually very mild and only presents itself as a slightly runny nose and longer naps. We’ve had Yang Yang off exhibit where it’s quieter and we and the vets can check on him more readily. He’s been sleeping a lot, but he still eats and drinks normally, so there’s nothing for his fans to worry about. I gave him some mulberry today and he gobbled it right up before taking another siesta. I’m confident he’ll be back out soon to charm everyone with his antics. 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, April 17
We had an unusual day in pandas yesterday. Yang Yang slept until 10:30 a.m. and then took a long nap in the afternoon as well. This is not too odd because sometimes the pandas do sleep late when they are passing some of the mucous lining of their stomachs in the form of a mucous stool. However, Yang Yang did not pass a mucous stool yesterday. We are not concerned that anything is wrong with Yang Yang - otherwise, he is behaving normally -- eating, etc. He has been very active lately since this is breeding season. Perhaps he just needs a rest day. Yang Yang is fortunate that he has the luxury to take such rest days.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, April 15
While the twins loved the firehose-web our intern created, I am here to update that their parents weren't as thrilled.  Lun Lun saw it this morning, and in typical Lun-fashion, couldn't have cared less, since the firehose-web did not provide biscuits nor bamboo and was therefore useless to her. Yang Yang's turn was on Tuesday, and in typical Yang-fashion, he was scared of it.  He walked into the den, sniffed around all cautious-like, and then ran back out and ignored the area for the rest of the day. This is the risk we take when creating new enrichment. Sometimes the animals love it, and sometimes they ignore it.
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, April 13
With the rainy weather, today was the twins' turn to stay off exhibit for the day while their parents were in the dayrooms. To make things new and interesting for them, I tasked one of our awesome interns to help with creating a firehose "spiderweb" in one of the dens for the girls. Our intern spent a good chunk of time working on this, and the result was very cool! Both girls came over to investigate it, but it was Mei Huan that we saw multiple times trying to climb the tangled mess of firehose – and she succeeded a few times! It's always fun to come up with new and creative ways to enrich the animals' lives, and it’s even more fun when it's a brand new idea we've never thought of!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, April 8
We don't just have pandas to breed and make babies, but that’s a great added bonus. The main reason Zoo Atlanta has giant pandas is for research purposes. We are currently participating in two research projects looking at hormonal data. The best way to collect this type of information is through urine and feces! So, we're collecting daily urine on Lun Lun and Yang Yang, plus feces throughout the week from everyone, including the twins. On top of this, it's breeding season! So that means even more urine is needed from Lun Lun to keep tabs on her hormones so we know when she cycles.  
 
It's a lot of urine and poop we have to collect! To make our lives a bit easier, we have a slew of check-off sheets for each research project and for our breeding season so we know what we need to collect and when. Every morning, the opener comes in and stares at all eight sheets of paper to figure out what we need from whom. This takes about five minutes as we encourage our brains to focus. This also means we're usually keeping one of the adults off exhibit during the afternoon so they can urinate on the concrete floors (that's how we collect the sample). Giant pandas only urinate a few times a day, so trying to catch it can be tricky! Some zoos have trained their pandas to urinate on command for various reasons, and I'm really considering attempting to do the same with ours!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, April 6
We recently celebrated Easter in PandaLand. All of the giant pandas and the red panda received Easter-themed enrichment items with all sorts of scents and goodies. One of my favorite part of being a keeper is getting to watch our animals interact with different toys. Each animal has a different list of items approved by our vet staff to ensure safety. Because I am a "swing" keeper and am trained in a couple different areas, I get to watch how a lot of different animals interact with enrichment. I recently found out that our resident tanuki, Loki and Thor, anoint themselves with different scents just like our giant pandas do! Some of their favorite scents include body sprays from a well-known bath store.  


Although we do provide daily enrichment for all Zoo Atlanta residents, holidays and themed days are extra-special because we have a team of Volunteers who make and decorate enrichment items for all the animals. This year our giant pandas each received two papier-mache eggs, an Easter basket, colorful paper-linked chains, and Jell-O eggs. I expected Lun Lun, Yang Yang and the Meis to anoint themselves with the Jello-O eggs. Instead, all the bears completely ignored them, and the keepers were stuck picking up the melted remains! Yang Yang did, however, anoint himself with the papier-mache egg, which had biscuits flying every which way as he rubbed it all over himself. The baskets were filled with wood wool and yummy produce. Idgie the red panda also received a decorated hard-boiled egg in addition to Jell-O eggs. She walked by the Jell-O egg and pursed her lips like she was disgusted by it, then continued on to investigate the rest of her holiday items.

Thank you so much to our dedicated Volunteers who helped make Easter at Zoo Atlanta fun and exciting for animals, keepers and guests!
Megan M. 
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, April 1
We have recently been offering Lun Lun and Yang Yang "howdy" access in the outdoor habitats. "Howdy" access just means that we open up a panel in between the habitats that allows the pandas to see each other and interact without contact if they choose to do so. We use howdy access frequently during breeding season to gauge Lun Lun's and Yang Yang' s reactions to each other and receptivity to mating. So far this year we have not observed interest from either panda. Yesterday, Lun Lun sat at the howdy door for a few minutes, but Yang Yang was busy sniffing and scent-marking. Later, we saw Yang Yang peering through the howdy door, but Lun Lun was eating bamboo.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, March 30
Today has been very status quo in the panda building. Everyone seems to be enjoying the cooler weather and sunshine that rolled in this weekend. The bamboo is rather delicious today. Keepers love to see happy pandas with bellies full of bamboo. Hopefully the pandas will continue to enjoy this bamboo over the next few days, especially since we're expecting rain several days this week!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, March 27
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have quickly upset Lun Lun's reign as our biggest mess-maker. Those girls are little bamboo-eating-machines. They sit and eat until they have obliterated every single piece we give them. When we clean up after them, there is nothing left over a foot long - just tiny little shreds and leaves. Mei Lun is the queen of eating. Mei Huan will at least take naps in between bamboo-destruction sessions, but Mei Lun just eats and eats and eats. Just like Lun Lun before her, we wonder where she puts all of that bamboo!
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, March 25
During opening routine yesterday morning, I walked in the building to find Mei Lun asleep in an off-exhibit den, with her sister asleep in Dayroom One (they had access to both areas overnight). I thought, great! This way I can weigh one girl, get her settled outside, and then weigh the other.  All went smoothly until Mei Huan woke up in the dayroom to discover that she was temporarily "secured" in the dayroom while her sister had shifted out onto exhibit after getting weighed. Mei Huan started chirping at her sister, who chirped back. I think Mei Lun must have thought she was going to wherever her sister was, because as soon as I secured Mei Lun out onto exhibit, she started chirping and squeaking and squawking for her sister from outside.  I quickly weighed Mei Huan (who was suddenly unfazed by being alone), and as I shifted her out into the outdoor exhibit with her sister, Mei Lun ran back inside to find her sister. Mei Huan sauntered past her clearly anxious sister and toodled outside with Mei Lun hot on her heels. The whole thing lasted less than two minutes, but it was hilarious to watch one girl get worked up, then relax while the other one who was relaxed got all worked up. So much drama! Clearly these girls like being together. As soon as they were both outside they quickly settled down to eat, and no more drama ensued. Ironically, later that day I separated them for individual training sessions for about 10-15 minutes, and no one got upset.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, March 23 
Giant panda breeding season is just around the corner and will be here before you know it. Lun Lun has begun showing some physical changes that are the precursor to estrus. Because of this, we are on high alert. We will monitor her physical and behavioral changes very closely over the next few weeks. Monitoring both of these can give you a good idea of when estrus will occur, but to really dial in the exact time, you need to get a little more scientific. Because of this, we also collect urine from Lun Lun and test it for hormone levels. We are testing samples on a weekly basis now, but as we get a little closer, we will test it daily and then multiple times per day. From doing this, we can normally determine the start of peak estrus down to the hour. This is extremely important for an animal that is only able to conceive in a 36-hour window. Every hour counts. Without the hormone data, we would only be guessing, an educated guess, as to when we should begin breeding introductions or any artificial insemination procedures. Armed with the hormone data derived from urine testing, we have been successful during Lun Lun's last four breeding seasons, resulting in five wonderful cubs. We are hoping to make it five out of the last five breeding seasons this year. Who ever thought that giant panda urine would be so valuable?    
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper, Carnivores 


Friday, March 20
Due to the rainy weather we had here yesterday, Lun Lun got to spend the day inside with the keepers. She seemed to enjoy herself as she was able to get all the bamboo she wanted and she didn't have to wait for it like she would if she was out in one of the habitats. All we had to do was put some in the den next to her and give her access, and boom, instant bamboo. We were able to spread her biscuit allotment throughout the entire day, which was nice because it makes it seem as if there is more, and she never knew when it was coming so it was kind of a surprise for her. We were able to do a bit more training with her than usual, and we were able to watch her interact with her enrichment. Yesterday it was a phone book with cinnamon sprinkled on it, which she immediately grabbed and started anointing herself with the scent. She then proceeded to tear it into many, many pieces. She even got a special visit from Dr. Rebecca Snyder, our former Curator of Mammals! Sometimes days like that are great because we get to spend a bit more time interacting with the animals.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, March 18
Now that the cubs are weaned, things are starting to get back to normal (or as normal as can be) in the panda building. It is a rare moment and one that won't last for very long as we anticipate the approach of Lun Lun's next estrus cycle and the upcoming breeding season. Yang Yang has already started showing some signs that breeding season is beginning. During this time of year, he will spend much more time walking, sniffing, and scent-marking. These are all things a wild male giant panda would do when in search of a mate. Another behavior that Yang Yang has started displaying more frequency is water play. It's a lot of fun watching him play in the pools, but the only thing better is watching Lun Lun play in the pool! She isn't usually very playful unless she is raising a cub, so it was a nice surprise to watch her get some pool playtime in on Sunday. It seems that the pandas are enjoying this wonderful Atlanta weather too!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, March 16
I have been getting trained in the meat-eating side of the Carnivore Department lately, so I have not been in pandas since the beginning of the weaning process. Now that it has been several weeks since their final day together, everyone has settled down to their new routines. Lun Lun has become her much quieter and calmer self. She seems to enjoy her nice long naps between feedings now that she doesn't have cubs jumping on her. She can eat her bamboo in peace without worrying about cubs snatching her piece that she worked on to get perfect. And her bamboo amount is slowly being reduced to her normal amount now that she doesn't have to produce double the amount of milk as with her single cubs. The cubs have become quite the bamboo eaters. They nearly destroy every last bit of bamboo that they are given. As keepers, we enjoy the small moment in time that the cubs will eat nearly every bit of the bamboo before they begin to discover the "ideal" panda pieces as their parents and siblings have before them.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, March 13
Transitioning to a different bamboo species is always difficult because the pandas are so selective about what they eat. Since we had to stop offering river cane a few weeks ago, we have been trying to find a suitable bamboo to replace it. We have tried a few different species and had some success with Henon (Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon') and Yellow Groove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). However, we have had a few days lately that the adults were not happy with any bamboo we were offering. We try to encourage them to eat the bamboo with biscuit feedings and by offering different cuttings, but sometimes nothing works. When that happens, we discuss with our bamboo team and pick another species to offer. Some people like to think our pandas are so picky because we spoil them by offering fresh bamboo so frequently. But after speaking with other keepers and visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, it is my opinion that this behavior is just innate to giant pandas. In the wild, a panda would sit down in a nice patch of bamboo and only eat the best and most nutritious pieces, then move on to the next stand to do the same thing. Wild pandas leave immature pieces or less nutritious pieces to develop, so they can be eaten later. Our bamboo team does its best to cut the best-looking bamboo (based on what our pandas choose to eat), but as humans, we cannot detect what the pandas do to know which pieces are the best. Therefore, we offer them huge amounts in hopes that they will find enough to satisfy them. We mostly succeed! It's just those times that we are switching from species to species that we find tricky. 
 
One thing I have noticed after all of my years working with pandas is that the young ones are not as finicky as the adults. They only become more selective around 3 to 4 years of age. I suppose those first couple of years eating bamboo are a learning curve for the youngsters, and they have to develop their palate.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, March 11
I have recently started learning the opening routine for the giant panda building. Opening shifts are usually one of my favorite shifts to work, and pandas is proving to be no exception. I really enjoy arriving first thing in the morning and being able to say "good morning" to whichever animals I happen to be working with that day. Many animals are awake to greet keepers when we arrive. It's not uncommon for Yang Yang to be asleep in the mornings, and he usually greets us with a big stretch and "old man noises."  It's very comical to witness!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, March 6
The twins are known for zonking out in the afternoon around 3 or 4 p.m., so if they are on exhibit in one of the outdoor habitats, we've been bringing them in around 3-ish so that whoever is closing that day doesn't have to deal with sleepy sub-adult pandas who happily ignore their keepers. This has allowed us to have more time bonding and training with the girls when they are inside the building.  

We aim to teach them everything their parents know – presenting various body parts at the mesh so we can easily check their body condition without going into the same space with them. Some of these behaviors include presenting their eyes and ears, opening their mouths, presenting their shoulders (for voluntarily receiving vaccines), standing up, presenting their chest, etc. Some of the more advanced behaviors include presenting their arm in a specially designed PVC tube for voluntary blood draw. They essentially stick their arm in a PVC tube with an opening on the top, grab a bar, and allow us to shave their fur and take blood while receiving treats. Their parents are pros at this and have even learned how to present their arm for voluntary blood pressuring monitoring. The girls are at the very beginning stages of the blood-draw behavior, so they're getting familiar with the PVC blood-sleeve, sticking their arm in and grabbing the bar with their arm in the correct orientation (palm up). Mei Lun hasn't gotten that far, but Mei Huan actually grabbed the bar in the correct fashion twice!  I got super-excited as this behavior is very hard to train. I gave her a bunch of treats (called a jackpot) and a while later asked for her to do it again, but she seemed to have completely forgotten.  Oh well, baby steps are baby steps and progress is progress, regardless of how quick it is! 
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, March 4
This past week was a little crazy in PandaLand. Since the weather has been so rainy, and since our pandas don't like rain, we can only have two pandas on exhibit during this type of weather event. The other day was the first dry day in a while,  so we decided to give the girls access to their outdoor habitat. They had access to habitat two, the tunnel, an outdoor patio and an interior den which allowed them to choose to come inside if being outside was not preferable to them. The girls have become very familiar with both our outdoor habitats, but this was the first time outside without mom Lun Lun nearby. Both girls did surprisingly well!  Initially, Mei Lun and Mei Huan spent some time walking around and vocalizing (their bleats are so adorable!). They settled down soon enough and ate and slept and ate and slept. There was one point during the afternoon that Mei Huan woke up from her afternoon nap and did not see Mei Lun, who had wandered inside for some biscuits and fresh bamboo. Mei Huan seemed a little unsettled that she was outside by herself, but we tossed some biscuits her way, which prompted Mei Lun's return to the habitat and everything was fine. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are having many "firsts" on their own, post-weaning. I can’t help but feel proud of them with every new adventure! 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper


Monday, March 2 
“Oh, the things tweens do …” Today, Mei Huan grabbed her morning bamboo and proceeded to drag it through her habitat and very delicately pulled it up into her favorite lounging spot. She proceeded to munch and nap for the rest of the morning. This was the first time we had observed her combining her bamboo consumption with her nifty elevated spot.  Now this was super-cute; however, through this action she challenged her keepers’ climbing abilities, since we needed to climb up to her favorite spot as well to clean up after her cool munching and lounging activity. Mei Huan made this look way easier than we did when we climbed up to do some “housekeeping!”
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals 


Friday, February 27
With all of the focus on Lun Lun, Mei Lun and Mei Huan lately, some folks forget about our resident male, Yang Yang. So I thought I would write an update about him today. This time of year is breeding season for male giant pandas. During this time, male pandas are more active, consume more bamboo (to bulk up for the ladies!) and spend a good amount of time walking and scent-marking in hopes of finding a fertile female. Yang Yang is no different. If you visit the Zoo in the next couple of months, you may observe Yang Yang walking around his exhibit more often than usual. This behavior is normal, and he will often ignore food and enrichment items during this time. Yang Yang is also more playful during breeding season and will solicit play with his keepers. Obviously, we do not go in the same space with Yang Yang, but we can still play with him. He has been especially playful while out in the off-exhibit habitat lately. He enjoys running along the fence with us and then will run off into the exhibit, rolling and tumbling with the bamboo or other things in the area.

For example, yesterday, he decided his water tub was a toy. He splashed in the water, then dumped it on his head and self-annointed with it. He rolled around with it until it cracked and broke into a few large pieces, and then he ran around with the pieces in his mouth. Yang Yang also played in the pool, splashing the water with his front paws, and he rolled from one side of the pool to the other several times. These early months of the year are the only time we really see this playful side of Yang Yang now that he is older. As a youngster, Yang Yang was playful most days, but now it is a rare treat for us. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, February 25
The weather in Atlanta has been gross lately: very cold, with periods of rain and some sleet, and today we even anticipate some snow. The Zoo is closed today in anticipation of the winter weather, and our giant pandas don't particularly enjoy being outdoors in cold, wet weather, so everyone's been inside where it's nice and dry.  

This has given Lun Lun several days to be in the back and benefit from lucky extra attention from keepers (which she never turns down), while Yang Yang and the twins have been in the dayrooms.  Even though weaning has been completed, we still want to keep Lun and the cubs as far apart as possible for awhile to prevent any unnecessary confusion that might occur. The girls have been thriving together as sub-adults and plowing through bamboo at astonishing rates! They're growing up so quickly!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, February 23 
The cubs have grown by leaps and bounds over the last few months. One thing that hasn't changed is how Mei Huan reacts when she finds a particularly tasty bit of food. When Mei Lun and Mei Huan first began eating biscuits, it was common for Mei Huan to take her biscuit and go as far away as possible from Lun Lun and Mei Lun so that she could savor it without sharing with her mom or her sister. This behavior is unique to Mei Huan and is not really anything we have experienced with other cubs. She seemed to have grown out of it until one day when we noticed Mei Huan lying on her side while consuming bamboo. This is a very unusual position in which to consume bamboo; most pandas will either lie on their backs, sit, or lean against something while they eat. After watching this behavior off and on for a few weeks, it appears that she is doing the same behavior. She just doesn't seem interested in sharing the yummiest pieces of bamboo with her sister. Mei Lun doesn't seem concerned with her sister's selfish ways, though. There's plenty of yummy bamboo to go around!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, February 20
Panda sub-adults seem to poop like it's going out of style. Their digestive systems are definitely faster than an adult panda's. No one really knows why for sure, but it probably has something to do with their digestive system switching from processing primarily milk to primarily bamboo. And I'm pretty sure the twins are having a contest as to who can poop more. The piles never end! And with lots of poop comes lots of bamboo pieces and slivers and branches and partially-chewed-then-spit-out culm to pick up. The mess never seems to end, and it rivals the mess their mom makes! But of course, they just look at you with that innocent "What? We're adorable, so that means you can't get annoyed. Ever" look. Sigh ... they're right! 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, February 18

Giant panda weaning Graduation Day!

Yesterday our “big girl” giant pandas, Mei Huan and Mei Lun, graduated from the weaning process. They will be living single (without mom) from here on out. The entire weaning process was uneventful, and peaceful for mom for sure, and progressed according to our plans. Our giant panda keepers will work with the girls a little more closely to keep them focused on their natural path to maturity. The great news is they have each other, and Lun Lun can now have some well-deserved “me time."

In fact, the girls may already be transitioning into that "tween time!" Yesterday morning, Mei Huan wanted to sleep in, and she completely ignored her keepers. (See photo! Photo by Jen Webb)
Tammy Schmidt
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 

Monday, February 16
Everything in PandaLand has been pretty calm and uneventful. The weaning process is going as planned. The pandas like the bamboo, for the most part. The Zoo also just celebrated Valentine's Day with holiday-themed enrichment for all the Zoo critters. Ironically, the pandas weren't all that impressed with the enrichment. Boxes were ripped into to get treats out, but other than that they pretty much ignored the stuff and munched away on bamboo. These status-quo days are nice, as we get to take a bit of a breather before breeding season starts!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, February 11
Every now and then we're reminded just how far we will go to keep our giant pandas healthy and happy. Yesterday just so happened to be one of those days. When viewing the pandas' dayrooms, either in person or via PandaCam, you may notice that the ground is covered in mulch instead of a concrete floor. This is beneficial for multiple reasons. It helps keep the bears off of concrete for much of the day, and it gives them nice soft ground to sit and lie upon while they are eating and sleeping.  

While mulch has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. Seeing that it is wood, it does dry out, compact, and degrade over time. When it does start to really degrade, it starts becoming a touch dusty in the dayrooms. It's not very bad, but we need to wipe the walls and climbing structures down a bit more to keep them clean. When this starts happening, we know that it will soon be time to replace the mulch. That's also when the keepers start praying that the day we change the mulch will be on their day off.  It is a very labor-intensive, dirty job.

We first have to remove all of the mulch in the dayrooms by use of shovels and wheelbarrows. You may not think that this is a big deal. Everyone has raked up a bit of mulch in their yard from time to time. In the dayrooms, however, the mulch is at a depth of 12 to 18 inches deep on average. Multiply that by how many square feet the dayrooms contain, and you've got yourself a lot of mulch. The amount of mulch isn't the bad part, though. The bad part is all of the dust that gets kicked up into the air when we are removing the mulch. We take all the necessary safety precautions for all the people working, but that doesn't stop us from becoming completely filthy by the end of the removal. Once the mulch has been removed and the dayrooms are down to their dirt floor, it's time to start bringing in the new mulch. This job is much nicer, but no less labor-intensive. We quickly get into a system and the train of wheelbarrows begins and continues until the mulch is nearly two feet thick. We make it this thick because it will settle over time.  

Yesterday we completed the entire project in just a shade under five hours. Not bad for seven people moving over 120 cubic yards of material. That's over 3,200 cubic feet, or about 1,600+ bags of store-bought mulch. You would think it would end there, but after the installation, the keepers need to begin cleaning the entire building, top to bottom, of all of the dust that has settled. This cannot be done in one afternoon, but will usually be completed over the next week. While all of this was going on, the pandas were outside in the habitats doing their thing, same as usual, so they were not exposed to any of the dust or dirt. When they are brought inside at the end of the day, the building is clean and fresh and has a nice woodsy smell.

I really like watching them come in at the end of the day. Their noses begin to work immediately upon entering the building because of all of the new smells. While it's a giant project for the keepers, as well as for the horticulture and maintenance staff who helped us out, it is completely worth it when you see the pandas come in at the end of the day and enjoy their nice, new mulch. It's a good thing we only have to do this every couple of years, though! 
Kenn Harwood
Lead Keeper, Carnivores


Monday, February 9
We have officially started the second phase of weaning for Lun Lun, Mei Lun, and Mei Huan. Saturday night, the cubs spent their first night without Lun Lun and were reunited Sunday morning. It seemed to go pretty well. Both girls were eager to shift into their dayroom filled with fresh bamboo, biscuits and lots of enrichment. If you've never had the opportunity to see a panda run, it's really quite a sight. Both girls barreled through the shift door on Saturday night, and I was excited to see them settle in so well. Everything seemed to go fine overnight, but all three seemed eager to be reunited the next morning. Everything was very much the same throughout the day and evening on Sunday. I'm sure as the nights go on, the girls will start to notice a little more that Mom isn't around much. We keepers are keeping a very close eye on our little panda family and are doing everything we can to ease everyone into this new phase of their lives. We all have to move out from under our moms' shadows and strike out on our own at some point, right?
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, February 4

We have a special double update today! 

The giant panda weaning process began for our two “big girls” this week. We are on Day Three of the first step in this process. We expect that it will be pretty low-key since it is a short span of time and the little girls have been eating on their own for some time. An added bonus is that the sisters have one another, so they have a built-in buddy for this new occurrence in their day. This process starts with Lun Lun’s daughters spending  six hours on their own. So far, this has been uneventful. Everyone is eating and resting comfortably, not seeming to notice that they are not with Mom. Mom, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying some "me time." Mom and daughters all reunite in the afternoon as though they were together the whole time. This process is well thought out and really formulated on a global level, meaning that we work with all other giant panda facilities in China and in North America to make sure we are following what would occur naturally at this time in the cubs' lives in the wild while also using a process that has worked for previous cubs, here and in other zoological facilities. So far, so good!
Tammy Schmidt
Assistant Curator of Mammals


Besides feeding the pandas, training sessions, starting the cub weaning process, and gearing up for another breeding season, the keepers have also been busy preparing Habitat Three! For those who don't know, this is an off-exhibit yard that has an actual bamboo forest growing within! To get to Habitat Three, the pandas have to walk through Habitat Two, so using this exhibit requires a little forethought so that the keepers don't find themselves in a shifting pickle. The yard contains several species of bamboo, which gives the pandas many options like they would have in the wild. Unlike the bamboo they receive from the keepers, the pandas are able to harvest the bamboo all on their own. Yang Yang and Lun Lun love going into this yard and can pretty much be left alone all day as they forage for food on their own. We still toss them their biscuits and produce, but they are just as content eating the uber-fresh bamboo. Unfortunately for us, the bamboo forest is so thick that we sometimes can't see the pandas, so we have to walk up and get a visual, even if we know they're in there because we see bamboo trees shaking.   

We only get to use this yard every couple of years, as the pandas are quick to decimate the bamboo forest and we have to let it grow back. Lun Lun was the first one to get to use it this year, and she really enjoys being there! It will be quite some time before we allow the twins over there. The yard is big, and we can only put reliably shifting pandas out here so that we feel confident that they'll come in in the evening! 

On a side note, Habitat Three is also near our red panda exhibit, and our female Idgie got to see her first giant panda! Lun Lun and Idgie had a bit of a stare down before Lun Lun wandered off to find some bamboo to eat, and Idgie toodled up her tree to take a nap and ignore the new noisy neighbor. It was cute to watch the curious interaction between the two (well, Idgie was more annoyed than curious).
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, February 2 
Today, we started the weaning process! Mei Lun and Mei Huan are at that age where they are ready to become sub-adults and live on their own. I, for one, am excited about this milestone. I started working as a giant panda intern only a few weeks before Lun Lun surprised us by giving birth to "twin" cubs, and I have been lucky enough to watch them grow up and learn how to be pandas. I was there when they started walking and when they were healthy and strong enough to both be placed in Lun's care. I was there the first time they went out on exhibit in the dayroom and again when they ventured outside in their outdoor habitats for the first time. I have been so lucky to be a part of all the previous milestones, and I am ready to watch as they encounter one of the biggest ones yet. Much like sending your 18-year-old off to college, Mei Lun and Mei Huan are ready for what is next, and so is their mom.  Lun Lun has done all she can to prepare them for what is to come. I expect Lun Lun will feel some relief when she no longer has two little munchkins climbing all over her. She can eat and sleep without being interrupted. 

The weaning is a three-week process. In the first week, Lun and the cubs will be separated for a total of six hours. Keepers will be closely monitoring both cubs’ and mom's reactions when they are separated and when they are reunited. Extra enrichment will be provided for the cubs to keep them occupied. They will likely still nurse when they are reunited, but we will be watching to make sure they are eating and sleeping normally. In the second week, Lun and the cubs will spend nights separated and reunite in the morning. Mei Lun, our little mamma's-girl, will probably notice that Lun is not nearby before Mei Huan does. Mei Huan tends to sleep much of the morning, and when she is asleep, she is asleep! This weaning process will be a little bit different than the process was for our previous cubs. Mei Lun and Mei Huan will have each other to keep company and partake in play sessions. We are hoping this will make the process a little easier for the girls. We expect to hear a lot more vocalizations from the cubs looking for mom, but we keepers will do everything we can to make sure this is a smooth process. This is a natural process for many different species, and the girls are ready.  
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, January 30
Mei Lun and Mei Huan were so playful this morning! They spent most of the morning wrestling, gamboling, and hanging from the structure in their outdoor habitat. The nice thing about having two cubs is that the kids have a playmate of the same size and interest in play. I know Lun Lun's previous cubs enjoyed playing with her, and she was wonderful with them, but playing with your mom is not the same as playing with your sibling. Mom is always bigger and stronger, and she usually decides when it's time to play and when playtime is over.  However, a sibling is almost always willing to wrestle or can be convinced to do so fairly easily. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are lucky to have each other. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Carnivores

 

Wednesday, January 28 
​We are still offering the pandas rivercane bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea), which they are gobbling up at warp speeds ... except Yang Yang, who's being a little finicky (so dramatic that boy is!).  But Lun Lun loves rivercane, as do her little shadows.  Tuesday morning started like every other morning with our a.m. panda routine.  I set Lun and her munchkins up with a lot of bamboo and left them at it.  Lun Lun ate until her belly was full and then decided to play with the twins.  It's always fun to watch Lun Lun initiate play sessions with her cubs, and this was no different.  

 

But I forgot to think about the disaster area the dayroom would be left in following this play session between three bears. It took two keepers close to 40 minutes to clean up the scattered bamboo, shards and tiny flecks of feces!  Mom and cubs tumbled, chased, and rolled around the entire dayroom, and managed to crush every fecal ball into tiny pieces which then got mixed in with the mulch.  Oy! But all we had to do was remember watching the play session, and our grumbles quickly diminished as we finished the mid-morning clean.  Oh, those pandas ... 

Jennifer W.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, January 26
Over the weekend, the pandas got the opportunity to become reacquainted with our large "squeeze,” which recently made its way back to the panda building. The squeeze is a large rolling enclosure that has metal bars around all sides, which allows us complete access to a panda for voluntary veterinary procedures. It sounds like it could be a somewhat scary object, but in reality, our pandas don't mind the squeeze. For Yang Yang and Lun Lun, the reappearance of the squeeze doesn't mean much. They're completely comfortable with it and are happy to sit in it for voluntary procedures such as ultrasounds. But if you've followed Mei Lun and Mei Huan's journey, you might remember that the squeeze was a favorite jungle gym for the cubs when they were smaller.  

The squeeze is located in a hallway between one of the dens and Dayroom Two. This means that all of the pandas have to pass through it when moving to and from this dayroom. The first couple of times the girls shifted through the squeeze over the weekend, they seemed the slightest bit unsure of the new addition. By the end of the day, however, they seemed to remember their old jungle gym and were difficult to shift through it because they were having so much fun playing in it!  They seemed a little confused when they found that they could no longer hide from Lun Lun underneath the squeeze, but pretty soon they were running and tumbling through the squeeze and generally making a big racket. I enjoyed watching them play, even if it did mean running behind on my routine a little!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper I, Mammals 

Friday, January 23
The other day, Lun Lun and the cubs were in Habitat One, and Mei Huan had her usual morning nap in her usual nap spot, which is on the edge of the pool in that particular exhibit. Lun Lun wandered over to Huan and gave her a little nudge with her head, causing a sleeping Mei Huan to roll over right into the moat. I know some of our guests were concerned, since it was quite a big drop. Mei Huan seemed startled at what had occurred, but she rolled right over to the storm drain nearby and went back to sleep. At the 11 a.m. feed, Mei Huan did not shift in, so we went out into the habitat and threw some biscuits her way to make sure she was acting normally. After finishing two biscuits, Mei Huan climbed out of the moat and shifted inside for some more yummy treats. 
 
We do not think this was an act of aggression on Lun Lun's part, as she will often "roughhouse" with her cubs in a playful way. It just so happened that this time Mei Huan was not in the best location. Panda cubs are much more sturdy than they look, however. In the wild, panda moms will hide their cubs up in the trees while they go out to forage for bamboo, leaving the possibility of a cub rolling over the wrong way and landing on the ground below. Cubs will also take many falls while learning how to climb trees. It's all a part of growing up!
Megan M. 
Seasonal Keeper 

Wednesday, January 14
Yesterday afternoon, once Lun Lun was finally finished eating her breakfast, she wanted to take a nap in the hammock as she likes to do. One problem: both cubs were in the hammock playing. Not a problem for Lun Lun! She just climbed in and got comfortable on top of Mei Lun's front end and Mei Huan's back end! What happened next was like a comedy routine. Mei Huan was able to fairly easily roll her way out of the hammock onto the floor. All we could see of Mei Lun was all four legs flailing in the air as she tried to worm her way out from under her mother. After a minute or so, Mei Lun managed to pull herself free and dropped onto the floor with her sister. Lun Lun snuggled into the hammock even more. Ah, but the cubs weren't giving up on the hammock so easily! Mei Lun climbed into the hammock again and pounced on her mother, and Mei Huan approached from the other side and pounced on both of them. Lun Lun initially pretended not to notice, but after a few minutes of both cubs wrestling on top of her, she slid out of the hammock to go sleep on the floor, while the cubs continued to play.

Disclaimer: No panda cubs were harmed in the production of this play session.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Friday, January 9
The Bamboo Team has cut a new species of bamboo for the pandas this week – rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea). Rivercane is a favorite of our pandas; however, they will only eat it under certain conditions. We have to have a very cold snap like the one we are having right now, and the rivercane must be cut when it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Obviously, we only offer river cane in January or February when our weather is typically the coldest. I think one of the reasons the pandas love it so much is because they rarely have it, so it's a bit of a treat for them.
 
We received the first cutting of rivercane on Wednesday, and I offered some to Yang Yang first because Lun Lun and the cubs were sleeping. He was quite pleased to have it. Lun Lun was up instantly – she smelled the new bamboo and wanted some for herself! When I brought Lun Lun in to feed her, Mei Lun and Mei Huan followed her in. All three immediately devoured the pieces I gave them. Afterwards, Mei Lun and Mei Huan sat and ate the leftovers for over half an hour (they would not shift back out into the dayroom with Lun Lun)! Once again, rivercane has been a hit. One can only hope that it lasts! 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, January 7
It has been really rainy in Atlanta for the last couple of weeks. This means that the outdoor habitats have been incredibly muddy and unfavorable for our giant pandas, not to mention the fact that our giant pandas just do not appreciate the rain. On Monday, the weather was nice enough that we were finally able to give Lun Lun and the girls access to one of the habitats for the first time in a few days. As with our previous cubs, Mei Huan spent much of the morning napping away in the moat of Habitat One near the drain. We're not sure why all of our cubs seem to gravitate to that spot for naps in that habitat, but it seems to be a favorite!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Monday, January 5
It has been several months since I last worked the panda routine, so I have missed watching the cubs transition into bamboo-eating machines. Not only was I blown away at how huge they are, but I was also surprised at how much they have learned since late summer. The cubs have improved their shifting abilities by leaps and bounds, so much so that at least one cub shifts inside at every mealtime. They are eating a lot of bamboo and are doing so with great ability. These little girls sure are growing up fast! And what about their parents? Lun Lun and Yang Yang seem pretty much the same as when I last saw them, but I am excited to see them again too!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, January 2
Happy New Year! We panda keepers have had a very eventful 2014! We have watched Mei Lun and Mei Huan grow and thrive. We had to prepare for and say goodbye to Xi Lan and Po when they moved to China. We expect 2015 to be just as busy. Lun Lun will wean Mei Lun and Mei Huan soon and then will likely go through another estrus period afterwards. Breeding season and cubbing season are always the busiest times for us. And, who knows?  Lun Lun may have her sixth cub this year! Mei Lun and Mei Huan are progressing nicely with their training, and we hope this year they will continue to learn new behaviors. Stay tuned here to stay up-to-date on the goings-on of Zoo Atlanta's pandas in 2015.
Heather R. 
Carnivore Keeper III

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