e-mail

share

Panda Cam


Exciting times! Lun Lun gave birth to her second set of twins on September 3! The first cub was born at 7:20 a.m. EST, and the second cub was born at 8:07 a.m. EST. Stay tuned for updates!
    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, September 30 
Being a giant panda nursery keeper is an immense responsibility, and we stay busy. Our first priority is the health and well-being of Lun Lun and her cubs. For Lun Lun, that means everything from feeding her and cleaning her dens, to monitoring her for appropriate maternal care of the cubs, or noting any behavioral or physical changes. Currently, Lun Lun is still uncomfortable leaving the cubs for extended periods, so we continue to feed her to encourage her to eat and drink enough each shift. To care for the cubs, our duties include stimulating the cub in the incubator to eliminate, ensuring that the incubator cub is warm and comfortable, monitoring the cubs' weights at each swap to confirm Lun Lun is continuing to provide them with enough milk, and documenting any behavioral or physical changes. 

We also clean and disinfect floors, sinks, door handles, light switches, desks, cabinets, refrigerators, and any other possible surface multiple times per day to reduce the risk of spreading germs into the nursery. Cleaning one incubator alone can take up to two hours! We launder the incubator bedding, keeper uniforms, scrubs, towels, and sheets used in the nursery. We wash dishes. We clean up urine and feces and sometimes collect samples of those from Lun Lun. We pick up bamboo shards and bundle larger pieces of bamboo left over from Lun Lun's meals. 

We take extensive notes describing Lun Lun's care of the cubs. We have multiples forms and logs to fill out documenting body weights, incubator temperatures and humidities, body temperatures, room/den temperatures, urine and fecal output, bamboo and biscuit consumption. You name it, we make note of it.

We nursery keepers are also currently controlling PandaCam. The image of Lun Lun and the cubs on PandaCam is the image we use to monitor Lun Lun so that we do not disturb her when she is caring for the cubs. Sometimes we sit in the den area near her so we can hear the cub nursing, but as we have many other duties to attend to, we use the Cam to keep an eye on her when we are busy elsewhere or when she is resting. We do not sit at a computer screen all day/night staring at Lun Lun and the cub and track every move. We do monitor her closely, but at any given time, we are doing any number of the tasks as I referenced above (or forgot to mention). 

I do not describe the work we do each shift to complain. Far from it. As I said, we nursery keepers have an extraordinary responsibility and we work very hard to keep Lun Lun and her cubs healthy. It's not an easy job, but every day it is rewarding to see the cubs growing under Lun Lun's meticulous care. I am so proud to be part of the such a dedicated team.



Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals

Thursday, September 29 
There are some interesting similarities between our newest panda cubs and their older sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan. Because we take so many notes during the first few months after panda cubs are born, we can confidently say that developmentally, these two are right on track with their sisters for this age. They are continuing to grow at a very rapid pace!

Let's start with the similarities between our firstborns, Cub A (pictured) and Mei Lun. They were both lighter than their siblings at birth. Mei Lun was 99.1 grams, and Cub A was 109.2 grams. Cub A and Mei Lun were developmentally a day or two behind their sibling for the first few weeks, which is completely normal but is still interesting. Both Cub A and Mei Lun developed the darker pigmentation around their mouths and chins.  It is also interesting that Cub A and Mei Lun were known as the "fussier" cub of the litter.

In contrast, Mei Huan was 145.3 grams, and Cub B was 132 grams at birth. They have tended to hit developmental milestones first (at least so far for Cub B). Cub B and Mei Huan had much less black pigmentation around their mouths. They were also known as the quieter and "easier" cubs because they were more laid-back than their twin.

It's really neat to be able to compare two sets of twins together. We already know we will have our hands full with our newest twins, but I'll be very interested to see if their development continues to have so many similarities to their big sisters!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, September 28
Cub B always cracks me up every time I come in for a shift. It is always sleeping, laying or doing something that is funny. The other night, Cub B decided to sleep with its tongue sticking out. Which is very similar to another animal I work with, Kavi the Sumatran tiger – Kavi is one that always has his tongue sticking out too, and it always amuses me. It's like Cub B and Kavi the tiger have created this cool new crew at the Zoo. Maybe for us to be as cool as they are, we need to constantly be having our tongues sticking out as well? Anyway, everyone here is doing awesome, and the cubs are still growing like super-fast weeds. Every day now it seems like they are changing, even in the most minute way.



Katie G.
Keeper III, Mammals 

(Photos by Katie G.)

Tuesday, September 27
Cub A (pictured) has hit a huge milestone! It has finally surpassed its littermate and is heavier than Cub B. This is a huge deal because Cub A has been smaller since birth. The cubs have been neck-and-neck for a few days now, and while it's not a race, it's exciting to see A finally catching up.

Remember those temporary identifiers that I mentioned last week? The cubs' black markings are pretty solid now. Cub A has black pigment around its face and along its chin. The lower edges of its saddle are fairly smooth. Cub B, on the other hand, has less pigmentation along its mouth and nose, and the lower edge of its saddle almost appears to have a divot in it.

While these identifiers aren't super-obvious, you may be able to use these to identify the cubs via PandaCam ... but only if Lun lets you get a glimpse! The cubs' most recent weights are: Cub A 685.1 grams and Cub B 674.5 grams. 
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals 

(Photo by Jennifer A.)

Monday, September 26
Making your Monday with a couple of chillin’ panda cubs! It’s oh-so-amusing, coming into work and the first thing I notice is how much these little cubs have changed in just two days. They are so much bigger and furrier than before. One thing that is so amusing to me is their sleeping positions. Let’s just say that these two love to relax. I especially love the “chill” pose with their paws resting under their heads and their back legs crossed. That one is the best! When they yawn, it’s pretty adorable too. I’m always amazed at how wide they can open their little mouths. 

Well, I leave you with these adorable pics of the cubs and their “chill” pose. Stay tuned to find out what other interesting things happen in Panda Land. 
Katie G. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

(Photos by Katie G.)

Sunday, September 25
Hello from the overnight shift! I take care of Lun Lun and the cubs in the wee hours when most of the world is asleep. Lun Lun is often more sleepy at night, too, but she still cares for her cubs just as diligently. The cubs are growing so quickly under her care! Both cubs have adorable fat bellies and are now over one pound. Cub B is getting fuzzier each day and the pink skin is fading under the white fur. Cub A is still quite pink and has a lot of dark coloring around its mouth. Their tiny claws have gotten longer and sharper in the last week. It's amazing how rapidly they change.



Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

(Photos by Heather R.)

Saturday, September 24
While Lun Lun is busy with her twins and eating for all three of them, she is still a typical panda and being picky about her bamboo. Lun Lun is eating about every three hours and enjoying her biscuits, fruit, and lots of bamboo. But not just any bamboo. Only bissetii or yellow grove. Only with culms under a half an inch in diameter. And of course, only when presented just the right way.

In other news, if you were fortunate to tune to PandaCam this afternoon, you may have gotten a peek at Mei Lun and Mei Huan playing inside the tire swing in Dayroom 2. It's always amusing to watch them play and engage so much with their enrichment. I have to say, it's the first time I've seen a panda sitting in a tire swing going around in circles. They never cease to make me smile! 

Stephanie B.
Curator of Mammals 

(photos by Stephanie B.)

Friday, September 23
One question we get asked often is why we don't let Lun Lun care for both cubs at the same time. Why is cub swapping a necessity to ensure both cubs' good health? As you've seen, our newest additions have a lot of developing to do before they resemble their parents and older siblings. At this stage, the cubs are still nursing every two to three hours. They cannot regulate their own body temperatures, and they lack the motor development and muscle strength to walk or even be able to scoot in a coordinated manner. Lun is so busy caring for one cub (and resting when she can), that if we gave her the second cub, she likely could not provide adequate and equal care to both cubs. This is true of most giant panda moms, and not just Lun Lun (although she is definitely a supermom!). 

This is what makes cub swapping such a valuable and useful technique. During this critical stage, we are able to give Lun the opportunity to give both cubs the attention and care that they need to grow and develop. And the good news is the cubs are thriving! Over the next few months, the cubs will continue to grow and develop, and they won't need so much attentive care from mom (or us). 

So to answer your next burning question, when will Lun Lun be able to care for both cubs at the same time? Because the cubs need such intensive care during the first several months of life, we will wait to give Lun this opportunity until we are confident that both cubs can walk and nurse from Lun with minimal assistance on her part. This won't be for another few months and will depend on the growth and development of these two cubs. 

While we're looking forward to seeing our newest trio together, we're very focused on the day-by-day right now. Our new little family is continuing to do well. That's the most important milestone of all!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Thursday, September 22 
We get a lot of questions about whether Lun Lun knows she has two cubs and how we distinguish the cubs from one another. In 2013, we weren't entirely sure Lun knew she was caring for both Mei Lun and Mei Huan, although we thought she probably could tell based on smell and small personality differences. This time around, I think we’re pretty sure Lun realizes that she has two cubs. 

Both cubs are very vocal and don't hesitate to get loud if their needs aren't met quickly. This is very different from Mei Lun and Mei Huan at this age. This means that Lun can hear them much easier when they are in the nursery near swap time. We've had a couple of times where she has gotten up to attend to a fussy cub only to find that the one in her arms was quiet and content. Of course, this means that a swap always follows shortly so the other cub can get its time with mom!

On top of that, the cubs already seem to have different personalities and preferences. We've shown you how the cubs prefer to sleep when they are in the nursery awaiting their next turn with mom. These preferences are similar to how they prefer to sleep with Lun. Cub A (on bottom) prefers to sleep tightly snuggled under Lun's chin. You're most likely to see just its head on PandaCam. Cub B, on the other hand, prefers to sleep loosely snuggled and can usually be seen lying on its back nearer to Lun's armpit. Both cubs even nurse differently. Cub B is very efficient, while Cub A takes a little longer to get comfortable before meals.

In the nursery, the easiest way to identify the cubs is by their weights. As their coloration continues to come in, we'll be able to see more differences in their coat patterns. This will even out as the cubs get bigger, but it will be a big help over the next few months. The cubs' weights fluctuate throughout the day, but as of the last swap, Cub A weighed 440.3 grams and Cub B weighed 509.9 grams.
Jen A. 
Keeper II, Mammals
 

(Photos by Jen A.) 

Thursday, September 21 



Many people wonder how the panda cubs are able to find where they are supposed to nurse under all that fur. Well, what they do is move their faces around until they are able to find where exactly where mom's milk is. Lun Lun does a wonderful job by placing the cubs in the area where they are supposed to nurse, and then they will root (move their face around) until they find mom's milk. If it takes one of the cubs awhile, and it can't find mom's milk, it will vocalize to let her know, and believe me, they will let her know. We rate the vocalizations  from 1 to 3, with “1” being very quiet and “3” being very loud. Check out a video today on Zoo Atlanta Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+, to see Cub B rooting. Be sure to turn up the sound to hear the vocalizations! 
Katie G.
Keeper III, Mammals 

September 20, 2016
As you can see, these cubs are growing like weeds, and Lun is doing a spectacular job raising them. You have probably noticed that Lun is allowing more visibility of the cubs now that they are becoming more hairy. If you notice, to me, Cub A looks more hairy in the face than Cub B – these guys right now are going through their crazy hair phase. I guess, it always get “worse” before it gets better.  Anyway, the cubs are doing great gaining weight; they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be! All in all, everyone is doing hunky-dory in Panda Land!
Katie G.
Keeper III, Mammals 

(Photos by Katie G.) 

Monday, September 19
Time is flying for our panda cubs this week! We've reached a minor milestone that you at home may have noticed. Lun Lun has started to put her cubs down for brief amounts of time. This is normal and no cause for alarm. The older, and bigger, the cubs get, the more Lun Lun will put them down in order to get a drink of water, urinate, or defecate. She is quick to return to them when they start to vocalize for her, and care staff is always present and watching for any signs of concern. Lun Lun continues to be such an amazing mother, sometimes just hoping for a moment of "me time.”



Stephanie B.
Curator of Mammals 

Sunday, September 18
Just take a moment to admire these adorable little paws! Even though they are super-cute, they still have sharp little needle-like nails. Lun Lun is such an amazing mom, doing what she does best by taking care of these wee little bears!
Katie G.
Keeper III, Mammals

(Photos by Katie G.)

Saturday, September 17
The twins are 2 weeks old! Whew! Even though Lun Lun and the panda team successfully reared twins three years ago, it really is an amazing feat that we have made it this far. Giant panda cubs are the most altricial young for any placental mammal. Caring for them is very intensive and time-consuming, for everyone involved! I'm sure Lun Lun would agree that they require lots of time and energy. But of course, all the work is worth the end result.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

(photo by Stephanie B.)

Friday, September 16
Happy Friday from the nursery! It has been a week since I have seen these little twins, and I am always impressed with how quickly they are growing and getting their nice black coloring. Before we know it they will look like full-on pandas. The tiny ball of fur version, of course. As I am writing this I am very distracted by our cameras where I can watch the hilarious antics of the twins’ older siblings. Mei Lun and Mei Huan were battling it out on the top of the structure in Dayroom One to see which panda could hold onto the top spot the longest. It looked like Mei Lun was losing. But I digress. Back to nursery life! Lun's appetite is continuing to come back, and this week she is choosing to culm the bamboo we are offering her. That means that she is preferring to eat the stalk rather than the leaves. During feedings we also offer some of her biscuits and produce, all of which she loves. Sometimes she will try to get biscuits and produce without eating her bamboo. Today we enjoyed a big laugh when I offered her a piece of bamboo, and she threw it away and looked at me for a biscuit. She needs to eat the bamboo to help with her digestion, so I gave her the hand signal for "bamboo" and asked her to go eat some. She knows that if she does this she will then get a biscuit. She promptly sat up, found her discarded bamboo, and ate it eagerly. Followed up, of course, by a biscuit. 
Jenny E. 
Lead Keeper, Carnivores 

(photo by Hayley M.)

Thursday, September 15
By now the cubs have gotten big enough to be able to see on PandaCam, but they do still hide either when nursing from Lun Lun or napping under mom’s chin. In the case of the photo of Lun Lun with Cub A, peeking out from Lun’s belly. I personally can’t believe how quickly they are growing and am so excited to see them each morning. In just 12 short hours they have gotten bigger and darker, slowly looking more and more like pandas (and less like naked mole rats). To answer a few of the common questions I’ve been getting: the yellow cords you see in some of the incubator pictures are temperature sensors. Because giant panda cubs get cold so easily, we closely monitor the temperature and humidity inside the incubators and the body temperature of each cub. We also weigh them, a lot! To ensure they are getting enough milk from Lun Lun we weigh them when they go in with mom and on their way out. Cub A (pictured here) is still a little smaller than Cub B, but catching up fast. Never a dull day in the nursery! 



Stephanie B.
Curator of Mammals 

(Lun Lun with A photo by Stephanie B.; Cub A photo by Hayley M.) 

Wednesday, September 14 
Greetings from the "other side!” While the nursery keepers and vet staff (and mom Lun Lun) are busy bees caring for the these new little nuggets, those of us taking care of the "other pandas" have been having nice, relaxing days. With only two groups of pandas, and those pandas wanting to only eat the leaves off the bamboo, routine has been pretty easy. So much so that we've had extra time to spend on cleaning, enrichment and my never-ending side projects. We also make sure we train and socialize with the pandas every day since we've been housing them all in the dayrooms overnight. Why, you ask? Well, easy-peasy as things are, we're a little cramped back here since the front of the building is being used by the panda nursery team. So, it's easier to keep our one off-habitat den clean and empty all the time when servicing the bears. But, while that makes routine easier, Heather and Shauna (who work the night-owl nursery shifts) have been going through a bit of withdrawal not seeing these pandas. So, to change things up, we randomly house someone in an off-habitat area overnight for a change of scenery, and so they get a little extra attention when the nursery keepers pass by on their quest for fresh bamboo for Lun. For the "other pandas,” life is pretty much status quo ... but I'm looking forward to my turn working some nursery shifts!



Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Tuesday, September 13 
The cubs are officially 10 days old! At this point, the cubs are growing and changing constantly. As each keeper returns from our days off, we are all awestruck at how different the cubs look after just two days away. Since we are on the brink of having some mini pandas on our hands, I wanted to take a second and share a timeline of the big developmental milestones we will see over the next month and when we expect to see each one.

Day 6-10: Skin on eyes, ears, arms, legs and saddle begin to darken. The darkening of fur in these areas will follow. The cubs' fur will begin to grow longer and thicker. 
Day 25: Cubs will be fully-furred and have all the distinctive giant panda markings.
Day 31-50: Ears open.
Day 35-49: Eyes begin to open. Eyes are not fully open until 72-76 days.

Cub B has a darker saddle right now than Cub A, which other than weight, is the easiest way to identify the cubs right now. We still have a long way to go, but our new little family is doing great! 
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals 

(Cub A photo, top, by Heather R.; Cub B photo by Jennifer A.)

Monday, September 12 
The time has arrived! If you look closely, you now can see that the panda twins are starting to show their coloring. Take a look at the ears, eyes, and front shoulders, and you can see where the coloring is starting to show. Each day they are looking more and more like giant pandas!
Katie G. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

(Photo by Hayley Murphy)

Sunday, September 11
Yesterday we were talking about the differences in Cub A's and Cub B's preferences when they sleep in the incubators. It seems as though Cub B prefers using "pillows" to sleep. It is hard to say what is actually going through its teeny head other than "I need milk," but a few times the other night, it moved out of the blanket and snuggler setup we use and laid on top of it. The setup we use, as I'm sure you've seen in previous photos, is a blanket on top of the head and a bean bag-type thing around it. This is used to simulate Lun Lun cradling it and to keep it warm and content. Cub B, however, squirmed out of that setup several times the other night and propped up on the bumpers to sleep and slept soundly for several moments at a time.



Shauna D.
Keeper II, Mammals
(photo by Shauna D.)

Saturday, September 10

So I came back from my weekend, and I am amazed in just that short amount of time how much these cubs have grown. I always forget how much time flies with the cubs and how fast they change. They now have a lot more hair and are gaining weight steadily.  It's also funny to watch the way they sleep in the incubators; both cubs like to sleep differently. Cub A likes to eventually sleep on its side all nestled under the blankets, which is too cute for words, and Cub B likes to sleep outside the blankets and elevated. Well, I guess we all have particular ways we like to sleep, and it's true too even for small baby pandas!
Katie G., Keeper III, Mammals

Friday, September 9



The cubs have both surpassed their birth weights. They continue to grow and develop every day. As Heather mentioned in a previous post, Lun Lun is an excellent mother. This is my first time as the nursery keeper, so seeing up close how she is with these two is amazing. I was able to see sneak peeks with Po and the Meis when they were older, but to see how she handles something so small and delicate is incredible. 

For those who don't know, today is dad Yang Yang's 19th birthday. This goofy boy – excuse me, man -- holds a special place in many keepers' hearts. He may be the pickiest eater at times, but his antics and personality more than make up for it. At times he is a drama king and other times he is a model panda. He can be a social butterfly or only want to focus on food. He's a nearly 300-pound chicken but we love him for it. He’ll be receiving his usual ice cake and decorated boxes this afternoon, so hopefully some of you can celebrate with us.
Shauna
Keeper II, Mammals

Thursday, September 8



Both giant panda cubs (pictured, Cub B) are continuing to thrive under Lun Lun's care. She is such an excellent mother. Giant panda cubs are 1/900th the size of their mothers when they are born, so panda moms have to be extremely careful when handling their cubs. This is my fourth time serving as a nursery keeper for Lun Lun, and I am always amazed at how delicately she is able to manipulate the cubs with her mouth and paws, which are incredibly strong. Pandas cannot retract their claws, but when Lun Lun is moving the cubs with her paws, she pulls her claws back away from the cub to avoid harming it. It's pretty cool to see. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, September 7
Because Lun Lun keeps the cubs so close and covered, it can be difficult to see them on PandaCam. We’re spending a majority of our day listening for cub sounds and watching for quick peeks of the cubs in between swaps. We're also able to get a good look at Lun Lun’s great maternal care. 

As we expected, the panda cubs have both lost a little weight since birth. This is 100% normal and is very similar to weight loss seen in human newborns. It can take a few days or so to gain that weight back, and we fully expect the cubs to reach (and even surpass) those weights sometime today. They have been nursing well and gaining weight well. We have also noticed slight darkening around the cubs' eyes, ears, and shoulders. This is also normal as the cubs begin to develop their panda pigmentation. The cubs are right on track!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals 


Tuesday, September 6

Cub update for September 6: We’ve made it past the critical 72 hours, and the cubs are just about back at their birth weights. Much like humans, and many other mammals, newborns lose weight right after birth and then slowly gain it back. One of the behaviors that I’ve found very interesting is the way Lun Lun breathes on the cubs to keep them warm. Since giant pandas are used to colder air temperatures, mother giant pandas will exhale, or pant, on the cub to circulate the warm air around them. Sometimes it can look concerning as she is panting with her head down, but this is all to help care for her tiny cubs.



Stephanie B. 
Curator of Mammals 

Monday, September 5
Panda cub update for Day 3! The cubs and Lun Lun continue to do well. It’s been three years since the last time I took care of panda cubs, and let me tell you, I’m still amazed at how tiny they are when they’re born. Another thing that amazes me is the set of pipes those little cubs have. Their vocalizations can be very, very soft, or if they’re hungry enough, very loud. Let me tell you, they will let you know when they are hungry. Lun Lun, like always, is such an awesome mom! After now having had seven cubs, she always amazes me with how her motherly instincts go right into effect about taking care of those little cubs.
 
Stay tuned to find out more of how the twins are doing, in the next adventures of PandaLand!
Katie G.
Keeper III, Mammals
 

Sunday, September 4
We have officially entered Day 2, and the cubs are doing well. We breathe a little easier after the first 72 hours. Not to say that they are not still very fragile, but the first 72 hours are very critical for establishing good nursing with Lun Lun. At this point, we are looking for positive weight gain, normal feces and urination when cubs are stimulated to go, and that Lun Lun is feeling good, producing a good milk supply, and is starting to eat and drink well. 

The addition of two brand new, state of the art incubators from the Dräger company has been so amazing! We are able to control the temperature and humidity to within one-tenth of a degree (%), which is very important for these babies. We are forever grateful for this donation!

The cub swaps are going very well also. Lun Lun has “been there and done that," and so have we, so we have established a great routine already and Lun Lun has been very accommodating. We are swapping the cubs every two hours to make sure that they each get enough mom time, but if one seems hungry before the two-hour mark and we have confirmed that the other cub has nursed (determined by very close observations done by our nursery keepers), we may swap a little sooner also. During the swap, each cub is weighed, checked to make sure it appears hydrated and pink, and checked to see if it has to go to the bathroom. Once the cub that just left Lun Lun is settled into the incubator, the cub that has been in the other incubator is returned to Lun Lun. This all happens pretty quickly, and while  the veterinarians and Chinese colleagues are working with the cubs, our dedicated keepers are making sure Lun Lun gets a chance to eat and drink. Pandas will not take care of their own needs very well during this neonatal stage, so we help her out and she has been doing very well. That's all for now -- take care and watch us on PandaCam!
Dr. Hayley

Saturday, September 3 
We are here in the giant panda nursery and are so excited to report on the birth of Lun Lun’s second set of twins! 

We received the call that Lun Lun was having contractions early this morning and all rushed to the panda building. We didn’t have to wait long before she gave birth to a very loud, very healthy-looking cub. As usual, she is such a great panda mom that she picked the cub up right away and started taking care of it. Because we had seen two cubs on ultrasound, we anxiously awaited the birth of a second. As we all know, there are never any guarantees that giant pandas will give birth, even after we have seen cubs on ultrasound, because they can sometimes reabsorb a fetus. Lun Lun didn’t disappoint us, though, and 47 minutes later, Cub B was born! Talk about excitement! 

Because  giant panda cubs are so altricial, (meaning that they are born in a very dependent and helpless manner requiring extensive care from their moms to survive),  and because we know that it is difficult for giant pandas  to provide this extensive maternal care for more than one cub at a time, often resulting in the death of one of the pair of babies, we were prepared to go into the twin-swapping mode that we utilized last time. We are so grateful that Lun Lun is such an amazing  panda and that we had such great experiences from the last time she had twins, and Mei Lun and Mei Huan taught us so much!  

The first cub that we were able to swap out was actually her firstborn (called Cub A for now). This is because Lun Lun set Cub A down on the floor of the den when she delivered Cub B. This can be a very dangerous time for the newborn cub, because the mom is so focused on taking care of the newest arrival that she can inadvertently roll on or sit on the firstborn.  We were able to get Cub A out of the den while she focused on Cub B. Cub A was rushed to our cub incubator and assessed to be very healthy, weighing in at 109.2 grams!  While we have a cub with us in the nursery, we take the opportunity to examine it for any obvious problems, weigh it, and we keep it very warm and moist (by keeping the humidity and temperatures in the incubator high), and it is snuggled under warm, soft blankets. This is to mimic the conditions of being held so snugly by Lun Lun. Cub A stayed nice and warm in the incubator, and we suspected that Cub A had nursed because he/she (too early to tell) seemed very content. Despite being so fragile, the cubs definitely let you know when they are ready for the next meal, and Cub A was no different, starting to get restless after about two hours in the incubator. We took this as a sign to try the swap, and when Lun Lun was in a position near the doorway, we removed Cub B and placed Cub A back with her for some mommy time! 

Again, we have had experience  doing this from when we did this with Mei Lun and Mei Huan, and it certainly helps to have our very knowledgeable and experienced colleagues here from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding who have  had years of experience doing this! So, we finally were able to meet Cub B, and boy, does he/she look great also. Very strong, and, of course, loud, and weighing in at 132 grams!  Hopefully, all will continue to go well here, and we know everyone out there is pulling for these babies! Anytime we can help to conserve endangered  species like this through our research and breeding efforts, as well as excellence in animal care, it is a huge success! 
Dr. Hayley, Dr. Sam and Dr. Kate 
Zoo Atlanta Veterinarians
 

Saturday, September 3
Exciting news! Cub One arrived at 7:20 a.m., followed by Cub Two at 8:07 a.m., on September 3! Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, September 2 
We continue to play the sit and wait game with Lun Lun. She continues to nest-build as she is trying to get her nest area just the way she likes. Our wonderful Chinese colleagues from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding have arrived to assist us as usual. They are settling into their new routine and their temporary life in the U.S. For right now, they are just spending days at the panda building getting to know us, the Zoo, and of course, Lun Lun. When the time comes, they will be here to provide us with their expertise in early cub rearing and twin care. 
Shauna D. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Wednesday, August 31 
Lun Lun has been nest-building quite a lot during this pregnancy. She brings bamboo from an adjacent den into her nest box and breaks it up and shreds it. Sometimes she pulls the bamboo on top of herself as she gets comfortable in her nest box. She hasn't made a huge nest yet like she did three years ago, but the frequency of the behavior has increased this time around. During her first three pregnancies, Lun Lun did not nest-build at all. She may have pulled the odd piece of bamboo into her nest box, but she left the pieces whole. It is interesting that Lun Lun has honed her nest-building skills when she is pregnant with twins, but I do not have an explanation for her behavior.
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, August 29 
Yesterday, during one of Yang Yang’s play sessions with tug'o'war, I decided to get one of our vets, Dr. Sam, to come play with Yang since he had never seen this side of Yang Yang. Our male panda was all excited and had been playing with us keepers for quite some time before Dr. Sam came over.  Well, once Dr. Sam took reins of the rope, Yang continued to play for a second or two before he realized he was playing with a veterinarian.  

It was beyond hilarious to see the thought process in Yang's mind as he realized who he was playing with. He immediately dropped the rope, sniffed it as it to see if Dr. Sam had done something to it, and then promptly stood on the other side of the den by the shift door clearly wanting to leave the area.  While we were laughing, I gave Dr. Sam Yang's leafeater biscuits to coax the wary bear back over. Yang cautiously approached Dr. Sam and took all his biscuits from the vet.  I was very happy that while a little un-trusting, Yang had an overall positive experience with one of our vets. We often ask our vet staff to come up and just "hang out" with the animals so they can enjoy positive experiences with them. Maybe next time Yang will play!
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 


Friday, August 26 
As we wait for a potential birth, there are a variety of behaviors that can be observed during this time. For instance, Lun Lun spends a majority of the day, and at times all day, sleeping, only to get up when she either wants to change positions or get more bamboo for her nest. The keepers have to be very careful around her when cleaning or walking by, because she is more sensitive to noise than normal. 

Next week we officially "split" the building, which means that the keepers who are going to take care of Yang Yang, and the twins will stay near the back of the building and keepers will use a smaller room as a makeshift office. This is so the keepers taking care of Lun Lun can keep a constant eye on her, making sure everything is prepared for, as Jen W. put it, "go time.” Keep looking at the Panda Updates for more!
Shelby E.
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals  


Wednesday, August 24 
Although we only recently confirmed that Lun Lun was pregnant (with twins!), we’ve been preparing for a potential birth for quite some time. Lun Lun is sleeping a lot more and is less interested in bamboo and her leafeater biscuits and produce. We're making sure everyone is ready when it's "go time,” as well as caring for the other pandas. In order to prep diets for the other pandas, we set up a makeshift kitchen in the back of the building. We also set up a laptop back there so the keepers taking care of Yang and the twins have the ability to get their paperwork done. It's very helpful that Yang and the twins are also sleeping more (which is typical in the summer for pandas). 
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, August 22 
When Mei Lun and Mei Huan were just a few weeks old, their slight differences in coat patterns and facial coloration were the easiest way to tell them apart. A few months later, those small differences became even more minute until they weren't distinguishable enough to be good identifiers any more. At that point, Mei Lun graciously allowed us to shave a small patch of fur along her saddle to help us with identification. As the girls grew, our periodic haircuts became a thing of the past. We found new ways to identify Mei Lun and Mei Huan. Flash forward to now: the girls are 3 (THREE!), and the keepers have come up with some really reliable ways to identify Mei Lun from Mei Huan. Each girl has her own favorite sleeping place. Mei Lun has a wider muzzle and a disheveled appearance like her dad. Mei Huan is a spitting image of her mom with perfectly round, fluffy cheeks. But what do you do when you're only looking at one panda?  

Mei Lun and Mei Huan still have some growing to do. Yesterday, we discovered that Mei Huan looks eerily like her dad from behind. Yes folks, Mei Huan is growing Yang Yang's signature "Shrek" ears! Mei Huan still has Lun Lun's fluffy cheeks, and if you're looking at her head-on, her ears appear "normal." But if you look at her from behind, those ears stick out like a sore thumb. I am very excited to see this gene has been passed on because that is one of my favorite characteristics about Yang Yang!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Friday, August 19
Exciting news! If you are not aware, we have confirmed that Lun Lun is expecting, and birthwatch officially begins Monday, August 22. During this time the keepers and vet staff are preparing the building with incubators, blankets, and humidifiers in order to ensure the health and stability of the cub when it is born. We are so excited and will continue to keep you updated. Stay tuned! 
Shelby E.
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals 

Wednesday, August 17
As some of you are aware, the panda keepers have recently been monitoring Lun Lun’s behavior and hormones for changes. Female pandas go through a delayed implantation, meaning that even after the male and female mate, it can still take a couple months before the egg has been fertilized. Then after the egg has been fertilized the gestation process can range between 97-163 days. Stay tuned for updates! 
Shelby E.
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals 

Monday, August 15 
While we have not yet begun a giant panda birthwatch and have not confirmed yet that Lun Lun is pregnant or not pregnant, we have been closely monitoring her for signs of impending pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. She has started showing some slight changes in behavior over the last couple of days that indicate that we may be moving toward the end of this reproductive cycle. The most pronounced behavioral changes affect her activity and appetite. As Lun moves toward the end of a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, we will see a decrease in both appetite and activity. In fact, when I first started working in pandas before the twins were born, all Lun seemed to do was sleep. She will also somersault into a sleeping position, which is something that we only see during hormonal changes. These behaviors are great indicators that her hormones are changing, but we may not know anything for sure for at least a few more weeks. We will continue sending urine samples for analysis and performing ultrasounds until we know whether Lun Lun is pregnant or not. Lun Lun always keeps us on our toes, so stay tuned!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, August 12 
Days in the panda building are always busy. We often make references to the highly-coveted "free time" to work on various extra projects, but it's important to take a moment to breathe every so often too. When I find those special few minutes, I like to spend it watching the pandas eat. It's a great reminder that these bears are just that: bears. It takes an awful lot of force to crush and consume bamboo stalks, and the pandas' teeth and jaws are well-adapted for that purpose. I enjoy watching the pandas methodically consume bamboo. It's a never-ending cycle of: sniff, bite, sniff, peel the outer culm off, sniff, eat, repeat. It's a really awesome sight to see, and it the pattern is kind of soothing to watch. If you've never taken the opportunity to watch the pandas eat, I encourage you to do so. And next time you're here for a visit, listen out for the sound of crunching bamboo. That is it's own awe-inducing noise!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Wednesday, August 10
I’ve always assumed that as a curator you’re supposed to be cool as a cucumber all the time, but I have to say that the unpredictable nature of giant panda reproduction can be stressful. I’ve never worked with such an interesting species that is so predictably unpredictable. But that said, it’s really exciting to be a part of all the preparation and science that goes into giant panda breeding. So while sometimes I pace around and shake my head at Lun Lun, who still wants to keep her own secrets as to whether she’s pregnant or not, I’ll calm down and be a cool cucumber and let nature take its course. Stay tuned! 
Stephanie Braccini, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Monday, August 8 
I'm sure a few of you have wondered why you see the keepers spray perfumes on logs or add toys into the dayrooms. This is because every day we provide different kinds of enrichment to our giant pandas and our red panda. Enrichment is a way for keepers to provide activities for animals to do in order to stimulate a more natural behavior through the senses. Different categories for the enrichment types include Environmental, Food, Sensory, Manipulative and Social. Today was the food enrichment, which could range from approved berries that are kept in the freezer or even a different type of produce they don't usually eat. So today, Jen W. and I added frozen biscuit balls that the keepers make from the leftover powder of leaf-eater biscuits into their diets. I have so much fun creating something fun for the pandas to do, because it is as enriching for me as it is for them!
Shelby E.
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, August 5
Yang Yang continues to be in a playful mood. Pretty much every day lately, he has had a significant play bout, usually with his biscuit bowl. We use a bowl for Yang Yang in the dayrooms to offer some of his biscuits (he can be particular about picking up the biscuits out of the mulch). Lately, those bowls have been his favorite toys! He likes when he can carry things in his mouth and still run around, and the bowls are perfect. You may have seen him on PandaCam recently climbing the structure with one of the bowls, throwing it across the room, and running to pick it back up. Yang Yang can be very silly sometimes!
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, August 3 
So you know how we say at Zoo Atlanta that 95 percent of the giant panda's diet is bamboo?  Well, that other 5 percent is mostly made up of the produce and leafeater biscuits they receive as supplemental nutrition. If you're Yang Yang, that 5 percent also includes mulberry trees as a special treat occasionally! He loves to eat the stems/trunks. He processes the mulberry much the same way he does bamboo: he removes the outer bark and eats the inside.  He doesn't care much for the leaves. Unlike bamboo, the outer bark peels off like a giant banana, not in pieces, which he sometimes finds annoying. Ironically, he also enjoys the actual mulberries that grow every spring!  The other giant pandas do not care for the mulberries (plant or berry). Such pickiness!
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals

Monday, August 1
While we're 100% on Lun Lun's schedule and patiently waiting for her to show signs of a pregnancy or pseudo-pregnancy, we're ready for it!  We have pretty much all the supplies we need in the building, and we even installed Lun's nest box. Her new nest box is a different color; we had to retire the old one because it had been scratched too much by Lun in previous years. Because we have installed the nest box, Dens 1 thru 3 are now off-limits to Yang Yang and the twins. We don't want the other pandas messing with the nest box, and we also do not want other panda scents on the nest box. This is now Lun's space and we want her to feel like her denning area is free of other pandas so she feels secure. 

What does this all mean for guests? Well, you're likely to see Yang and the the twins more, because logistically it's the easiest way to house the pandas. Lun can still go on exhibit for the time being, however.

She is quite happy to have her nest box installed, and quite happy to be where she is. Once we start seeing behavioral changes in Lun, we will start adding hay to one side of the nest box to give Lun options. Maybe she will build her own bamboo nest like she did before the twins were born! Usually she does not exhibit much nest-building behavior, so that was a treat!
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals

Friday, July 29 
Greetings, all! This is my very first panda web update, as I just joined the giant panda team a little while ago. However, even though I am just joining the panda team, I have been with Zoo Atlanta for a little over a year as an intern in three different areas (Hoofstock, Outback Station and Carnivores). In each department I have learned something new, and I am continuing to learn as I work with seasoned and passionate keepers in this department. The things I've learned so far have been that even though you have a plan in your head things will always change, the pandas are very picky with what they want to eat, and poking yourself with bamboo shards is never fun. I'm learning so much and look forward to learning more.

Yesterday morning Mei Lun and Mei Huan decided that they didn't want to be weighed (which we try to do every morning), so they slept in until almost 10:30 a.m. On the other hand, Idgie, our red panda, was up and walking around by the time I got to her habitat, a whole hour before the twins decided to get up. In this case, Idgie was the early bird that got the worm. Yet from what I'm told, that doesn't always happen. I can't wait to experience more during my time here!
Shelby E.
Seasonal Keeper 


Monday, July 25 
Last time Jen wrote about being on "panda time" and having to wait for Mei Lun usually. Well yesterday, you know who provided another example of being on their time. After lunch we brought the girls inside so that we could clean their dayroom and give them fresh bamboo. As always, we gave them some bamboo to munch on while they waited. Well, as it turns out, we gave Mei Lun just a bit too much bamboo because as soon as she finished her piece, she fell right asleep. Mei Huan, on the other hand, knew there was some nice fresh bamboo waiting for her and went right out. She seemed unfazed by Mei Lun's absence, as she herself fell asleep shortly after going outside. 



Shauna D.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Friday, July 22 
Lun Lun's behavior and hormone levels remain the same. We still have no indication that she may be pregnant or if she will experience a pseudo-pregnancy. She is participating in weekly ultrasounds, but the vet has not seen any activity in her uterus. As is always the case with a possible giant panda pregnancy, we continue to wait and see!
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals
 

Monday, July 18
If you've ever tuned into PandaCam or visited the panda habitat while keepers are cleaning, you may wonder why it sometimes takes us a few minutes to get Mei Lun and Mei Huan back out. We've mentioned before that the girls are insanely messy eaters which makes clean-up a challenge, but there's another factor at play here. Each panda has an allotment of leafeater biscuits and produce that they receive at each meal. For the girls, we have to feed these biscuits by hand or temporarily separate them so each panda only has access to her own biscuits. This is important because the girls have two different methods to eating their biscuits. Mei Huan is a little Hoover, just like her mom. She prefers to scarf all of the biscuits she can find before settling down to eat bamboo. Mei Lun, on the other hand, is just like her daddy. She prefers to savor her biscuits, maybe even more than Yang Yang does! This means that she sometimes eats very slowly, and she can't be bothered when it comes to eating biscuits. Sometimes this means that she ends up blocking Mei Huan from going back out as soon as we are ready. So next time you find yourself watching and waiting for a while, know that the girls will pop back out as soon as Mei Lun is ready. We are definitely on "Panda Time" when we're here!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, July 15 
Happy birthday, Mei Lun and Mei Huan! 

Our bamboo cooler is quite packed at the moment!  But not for a good reason. The pandas are in-between bamboo species again. Currently we have five different species we are offering to figure out what they want to eat. Every day is a new day in terms of how the bamboo tastes, so the keepers have to play detective to determine what the bears will eat. This of course makes it quite difficult for our bamboo techs to know what to harvest!  Summertime is the worst with bamboo; historically our bears have not eaten well in July and August due to the hot, dry weather.  The bamboo just doesn't taste as yummy, so we end up doing a lot more one-on-one biscuits feedings with the pandas to encourage them to eat their natural diet. Is it sad that I'm already ready for fall and winter?!
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, July 11 
With summer comes high temperatures, more naps from the pandas, and our typical summer bamboo rut. It seems that every year the pandas become increasingly choosy about bamboo during this season. We remedy that by increasing the amount of training sessions and enrichment we provide, as well as offering more species of bamboo. Yellow groove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is almost always a staple species for our pandas these days. It is easily identified by its large leaves and distinctive yellow stripe down the stalk. Henon (Phyllostachys nigra 'henon') is the other species that we have been offering. It has a much lighter stalk with a whiteish tinge and small, green leaves. Unfortunately, what is tasty one day may not be as tasty the next day. The pandas will even change their minds multiple times throughout a single day! As you can imagine, this keeps the keepers and Bamboo Team extra busy. This week we will add a third species, black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), into the mix. Black bamboo gets its name from the black coloration to its stalk. Happy pandas equal happy keepers, so we hope this additional species will be a tasty one!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, July 4 
Happy July 4 to all! We're busy bees working on the twins' birthday ice cakes in-between taking care of the pandas and our other daily duties. Ever wonder how we get the cakes made with so many hands on deck? Well, we plan each step in advance so we know how many days we need to complete the cake(s). This ensures we give ourselves plenty of time for issues and crazy days where we don't have an opportunity to run up to our Animal Nutrition Kitchen (where we work and store the cakes in the large walk-in freezer). It actually takes a lot of thought in making the prep sheets because you have to allow at least 24 hours for each layer to freeze. This prep sheet is a couple of pages long and took me over half an hour to get everything organized so we could work on both cakes at the same time! Here's to hoping the girls like all the hard work we put into their birthday celebration. Be sure to join us on July 15 to see the finished masterpiece! 



Jen W. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, June 29  
Even though Lun Lun is not currently showing any signs that she is pregnant, we are very busy preparing for a possible birth. The front part of our building is filling up with nursery paraphernalia: incubators, blankets, bottles, formula, veterinary equipment and notebooks full of useful information about our previous giant panda births. Our Multimedia Team is busy checking the cameras in the dens and our PandaCam equipment. Eventually, as we prepare for a possible birthwatch, our kitchen will be taken over by the nursery, and our diet prep for Yang Yang and the twins (and Idgie!) will move to the back of the building. At this point, Lun Lun is taken care of by nursery keepers, and Yang Yang, the twins, and Idgie will be cared for by different keepers. All of the keepers working with the pandas during this time are familiar to all of the pandas, but the nursery keepers will only take care of Lun Lun and a possible cub. We keep Lun Lun's separated from the rest of the building to reduce the transmission of germs in case she has a cub. It's a very busy but exciting time here at the panda house. 
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, June 27 
I know we've been talking a lot about Yang Yang's playful bouts lately, but we seriously can't get enough of his silly moments! Well, Yang was at it again on Sunday. Yang spent his morning indoors soliciting play sessions with keepers. We would play with him for a few minutes and return to work only to look over and see him running back and forth through the dens "chasing" us with his rope in his mouth and teasing us with it. Yang Yang was an absolute ham during the Wild Encounter, and he even put on a show in the dayroom in the afternoon for all to see! We saw lots of climbing, running, and tumbling through the entire dayroom. He even tried to catapult a large enrichment barrel across the dayroom once or twice. Yang Yang always puts a smile on our faces with his silly moments!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals  

Friday, June 24  
We are getting many questions lately about whether or not Lun Lun is expecting. As many of you know from following our giant panda program, giant panda pregnancies are difficult to determine. Lun Lun always has her own timeline, and we wait and see. Currently, she is behaving normally, and veterinary staff have not seen any changes or found anything of significance via ultrasound. Stay tuned – updates will be posted here as we have them! 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, June 22  
I hope everyone had a wonderful Father's Day! Yang Yang seemed to enjoy his painted box and "bowtie" as well as his sugarcane-scicle. Yang has gotten so good at picking the sugarcane out of his ice blocks that he can finish his "popsicles" in no time flat! 



Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, June 20 
We're well into our busy summer season here at the Zoo, and that means the panda building is a really hopping place to be! As Jen W. mentioned, we're in the planning stages for the pandas' birthday cakes, especially Mei Lun's and Mei Huan's. We have a couple of months before we will need to start building Lun Lun's and Yang Yang's cakes, but that doesn't mean we aren't already thinking about it!

With the increase in visitors to the Zoo, we're also meeting many of you wonderful people back in the panda building! If you decide to come visit us on a Wild Encounter, you may notice that we are also busy making some changes inside the building. We are slowly beginning to prepare our cub nursery. We do not yet know if Lun Lun is pregnant (and we probably won't know for awhile still), but there is a lot of work to be done to get ready for the possibility of a cub or cubs being born later this summer. We have to review protocols, inventory nursery items, gather more items that may need updating, and have everything set up so that we're ready if the moment arrives.

The pandas are taking all of this hustle and bustle in stride. They are beginning to sleep more, which is normal for this time of year. It is not uncommon for the pandas to sleep later in the mornings, which gives us keepers more time to work on all of the other equally important aspects of our jobs. In fact, Yang Yang has slept in until at least 9 a.m. the last few mornings!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, June 17
I'm not sure if you were watching PandaCam yesterday afternoon, but if you were, you were in for a real treat! Yang Yang decided to display his playful energy to guests and was running around the dayroom interacting with just about every enrichment item we had to offer. He began his play session by trying to wrestle a jolly ball down from the climbing structure while sitting on one of the benches. This went on for a few minutes before he decided to fling a bowl around the dayroom. When all of that lost its fun, he decided that he needed to get up close-and-personal with our PandaCam that is on the wall! Lucky viewers got to experience Yang Yang "up close" as he tried to tackle the giant box on the wall. I hope you all enjoyed watching this play session as much as we did!
Jennifer a.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Wednesday, June 15 
The twins' birthday is right around the corner. Just over a month away! It's crazy to think that they will be turning 3 years old.  This means we're also hard a work preparing their birthday ice cakes.  I'll let you know this much: the theme is "simple, but sweet" and they will each get a cake! Stay tuned for more details on their birthday festivities. 

Just the other day, we saw some of the blankets that were used when the twins were little, tiny munchkins and it brought back a flood of memories! They grow up fast! 
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals

Monday, June 13
Today's theme of enrichment was "environmental,” so our awesome intern Levi decided the adult pandas needed some extra zen in their lives and constructed two cool river rock "zen gardens" for Yang Yang and Lun Lun.  Lun Lun was a little apprehensive of her rock tower at first, but she later decided to eat some bamboo in this den so I think she learned to appreciate the art!  Yang Yang wasn't thrilled about having to figure out what was yummy leafeater biscuit and what was river rock, but he was surprisingly careful not to mess the rocks up too much!



Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Friday, June 10 
Yang Yang has been a huge ball of playful energy the last few days! On Tuesday, it was his turn to spend the day in the dens. Yang was so playful and interactive, and we had a blast playing tug of war with him and his favorite rope. You might wonder how we play with the giant pandas, and the answer is carefully and safely! There is always a barrier between us, but we can safely play tug of war with a very long rope. Yang Yang is the only panda that enjoys this game with us, and when he wins he likes to parade the rope through the dens just to make sure we know that we lost!

Yesterday it was Yang's turn in the dayrooms, and he was so playful that we turned the dayroom into a huge playground for him complete with toys to beat up, roll in, and carry around. He especially seemed to enjoy the hanging bundle of jolly balls that I hung for the girls a few days ago. Yang is spending time in the other dayroom today, and he still seems to have just as much playful energy. We decided to take advantage of this energy and  encourage Yang Yang to spend a little time foraging for his biscuits and produce. We hid his biscuits in the bottom of a barrel, which we then filled with jolly balls. I don't think we expected Yang to be as engaged in his enrichment, since we know he usually doesn't like to work very hard to manipulate food out of his toys. Yang Yang surprised us by knocking over the barrel and pulling out all but one ball (I think it just never quite made it out of his way) and climbing into the barrel to eat his biscuits. We watched as he swiped the biscuits closer to him, and if he missed one, he would climb even further into the barrel, as far in as his hips! Watching him climb back out was comical too, since we usually don't see the adults climb into the barrels like this. I'm glad Yang seemed to enjoy all of his enrichment. I know we've all really enjoyed watching this silly side of Yang!



Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals
(photos by Jen Webb) 

Wednesday, June 8
A keeper's day is jam-packed with cleaning, feeding, training, projects, paperwork, meetings, etc. So, we naturally hate to get behind on routine. Yesterday morning started as any other normal day at pandas. I was hustling around weighing the pandas (we weigh them twice a day) and getting them set up with fresh bamboo. Since it was already pretty muggy and hot, Yang Yang was going to be the lucky guy who got to stay in the den for the morning while Lun and the twins spent the morning in the dayrooms.

Pandas are not known for their patience, especially when it comes to breakfast. So I was quickly cleaning the dens Yang had spent the night in in order to give him a clean, dry place to eat breakfast. Yang Yang was in a neighboring den walking around and, I thought, not so patiently putting his paws on the mesh demanding my attention. It took a couple of minutes before I realized that he wasn't impatiently waiting for fresh food; he was impatiently waiting for a play session!  

His favorite game to play is tug-o’-war with a piece of braided rope. So I ran and got the rope and stuck one end through the mesh. He immediately grabbed it with his mouth and started alternatively chewing on the knotted end and tugging on the rope trying to get me to tug back. For the next 30 minutes he demanded that I play with him rather than clean. Every time I stopped to go back to cleaning he would throw himself at the mesh and bleat (common vocalization) in a very specific way.

We always let him win the game at the very end, but we also make a point of winning a round or two ourselves because he gets so riled up when he loses the rope!  It's really adorable, and I cherish each opportunity I have to bond with these amazing animals. And getting behind on routine because the critters you care for want some attention is definitely something we keepers are a-OK with!
Jen W. 
Keeper III, Mammals

Friday, June 3
We are at the end of shoot season. The bamboo team is no longer finding new shoots for the giant pandas to enjoy, as they have all hardened and grown into young, leafy bamboo. We are also only finding the occasional shoot during our checks at the bamboo stands growing on grounds. This is good news for future harvests! It means that in a few years, we will have mature bamboo that can be harvested for the pandas to (hopefully) consume. It also means that we are back to offering mature bamboo. The pandas are understandably less than thrilled that the delicious shoots are gone, but they are getting back into the groove of eating fully mature bamboo, which is their staple diet. The first few days of a transition are always a little challenging since we don't know what the bears will like or what they will absolutely reject. Fortunately, all of the pandas are in the process of deciding their preferred species. Right now, it looks like Lun Lun and Mei Lun are preferring Henon (Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon'), while Yang Yang and Mei Huan are preferring Yellow Groove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata).
Jennifer A.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, June 1
We have arrived at that time of year when the pandas are using the dayrooms because it’s getting warmer outside. By the time we arrive in the morning at 7 a.m., it is already 75 degrees Four more is our cutoff for a comfortable outdoor temperature for the pandas. No worries! The pandas enjoy being inside in their dens. Pandas are happy anywhere they have fresh bamboo. Also, when they are in the dens, they enjoy being able to letting us know they want more biscuits, produce, and bamboo! Yang Yang is especially happy to be in the dens. As our most social panda, he likes to see us and interact with us as much as possible. We rotate the pandas daily so that everyone has an opportunity to be in the dayrooms and in the off-habitat dens.
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, May 30 
Mei Lun and Mei Huan were in quite a playful mood this morning. While Yang Yang and Lun Lun spent their morning sleeping until it was time to eat some fresh bamboo, the twins were climbing all over the wooden structure in one of our dayrooms and jumping into their hammock. There was plenty of play wrestling too. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are growing fast, but it’s good to see they still like to have some fun.
Jordan B. 
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals 

Friday, May 27
Saturday we celebrated Endangered Species Day here at the Zoo, although I think we should celebrate it every day. Unfortunately due to circumstances out of their control, many of the species in our care are endangered in the wild. Whether the issue is poaching for horns, as is the case with rhinos, or habitat loss due to urban development, the wild is an increasingly difficult place to live. Giant pandas number about 1,800 in the wild. Their territories are severely fragmented and their bamboo forests are being cut down in order to make room for farms to feed the increasing human population. Sumatran tigers, like the two beautiful adults we have here, number as few as 400 individuals in Indonesia where they are found. They face threats such as habitat loss and illegal poaching. Bali mynahs, pure white starlings we also have here, are critically endangered in the wild numbering at about 100 mature individuals. Their main threat in the wild is poaching and capturing for the illegal pet trade. The critically endangered Panamanian golden frog is now believed to be extinct in the wild as a result of deforestation, water pollution, over-collection, and the biggest threat to many amphibians, chytridiomycosis. Chytrid fungus is an infectious fungus that has caused a large amount of deaths and even extinctions in many amphibians throughout the world, and currently there is no effective large scale treatment.

Just remember, with all this sadness there are still rays of hope. The bald eagle was brought back from the brink of extinction by scientists and conservation groups who realized that the pesticide DDT was affecting the shell strength of their eggs. And just by our not using such pesticides anymore, bald eagle population numbers have increased dramatically over the last several years. And bald eagles are not the only example of successful conservation efforts in action. The California condor, the American bison, the grey wolf, and the golden lion tamarin are all success stories. So as you all are reading this, I encourage you to research conservation projects near and far. Get involved in what ever capacity you can. Donate, spread the word, visit you local zoo. Any little bit helps.
Shauna
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, May 25 
We've talked a lot about shoots lately, but we have other exciting things happening in PandaLand too. Almost every department throughout the Zoo has a brand-new set of interns! Interns are an invaluable resource for keepers, and the Carnivore Department (which pandas are a part of) is fortunate to have four fantastic new interns. We're very excited to have these guys (and gals) working with our keepers. The interns are currently training on all of the different routines, and they will split their time between the giant pandas and the meat-eaters, just like our keepers. They are hard at work learning as much as they possibly can over the next few months. They will learn about each of our ambassadors and their wild counterparts, their daily husbandry needs, and have the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills. Our interns are all very enthusiastic about their new roles and are learning so many fun and exciting things. In fact, their enthusiasm is contagious! Next time you're at the Zoo, make sure to say hi, and even ask them about their favorite panda fact. They all seem very happy to share their experiences thus far!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, May 23 
Holy bamboo shoots! Shoot season has always been the best time of year for our pandas and the keepers alike, but this year has been awesome. In my nine years as a panda keeper, we have never had this many bamboo shoots available to offer the pandas! Not only have we had a bumper crop growing up on grounds at the Zoo, but our Bamboo Team have been busy cutting them from stands around the city. During this time of year, giant pandas in the wild are eating bamboo shoots exclusively and can consume around 80 pounds per day. We have always offered the pandas shoots, but we have been conservative and only offered the ones we found growing on grounds. We worried that if we cut shoots from our regular bamboo stands, we wouldn't have enough mature bamboo for the pandas. We are still being conservative and not cutting shoots from certain species, like yellow groove, so it will grow into mature pieces; however, there are a few species that the pandas do not eat well or at all, so we are using those shoots this year. As Jen A. mentioned in a previous post, we are offering the pandas around 70 percent shoots of their total bamboo for the day right now. Shoot season never lasts long enough (~ one month), but for now the pandas are full and satisfied, and we keepers are thrilled to have happy pandas!



Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, May 18  
Shoots, shoots, shoots! It's a really exciting time of year - we're finally at the height of bamboo shoot season! In the wild, giant pandas would be eating almost exclusively bamboo shoots during this time of year. We've offered bamboo shoots as often as possible in the past, but this year's harvest has been especially plentiful. Over the last few days, we have been able to supplement almost half of the pandas’ diets with bamboo shoots. The pandas can't seem to get enough shoots, and one large shoot can fill their bellies with minimal effort. The giant pandas aren't the only ones getting in on the bamboo shoot action. Idgie, our red panda, has also been seen munching on shoots, although she usually eats them while they're small. Yesterday, I caught Idgie plowing through a shoot of henon (Phyllostachys nigra 'henon') that popped up in her exhibit. All that was left of that particular shoot this morning was crumbs.



Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals
 

Wednesday, May 11 
Happy (late) Mother's Day to all of our mom readers! On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day with all of our wonderful animal moms too. I don't think Lun Lun noticed that there was anything special about Sunday, except that she got some extra treats in the afternoon. We gave Lun a wrapped box with treats, a couple of gorgeous paper and bamboo "flower" bouquets, and a hanging sugarcane-sicle. Lun really seemed to appreciate her "flower" bouquets. She spent some time plucking some bamboo shoots out of the bouquet before heading off to chow down on more bamboo. Lun still hadn't found her popsicle by the time my shift was over, but I'm sure that she enjoyed it when she did!



Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, May 9
It's the beginning of summertime, which means most to all of our mammal species are blowing their winter coats. Some species, like a tanuki, go through quite the drastic change from fluffy winter coat to a much thinner summer coat. Even the red panda's tail becomes less fluffy during the summer months! Other species, like the giant panda, are a little less noticeable to the naked eye. Our giant pandas are well into their shedding period. Lun Lun seems to be shedding the most! Every morning when we clean there is a sizable chunk of fur we must clean from the drains. This is all perfectly normal, and we aren't worried about her losing too much fur. On your coming visits to the Zoo, you'll see plenty of species doing a little extra grooming and scratching as they get rid of that pesky winter coat in preparation for our hot summers. One question we get asked is "Do you brush the animals?" Some species, like the petting zoo animals, enjoy getting brushed. But for the vast majority of our animals, we simply offer different substrate/logs/etc. and even brushes secured to a post so that they can scratch as they please. These animals do a great job getting rid of their winter coats on their own in the wild, so they don't need much help from us!
Jen W.
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, May 4 
Summer is quickly approaching, as evidenced by the warmer temperatures and humidity over the last few weeks. Giant pandas have thick, wooly fur coats that are fantastic for protecting the bears from the cool, misty climate in China, but that means they are not as well equipped for dealing with the Georgia summer. Asking the giant pandas to be outside on a hot day is a lot like you or I spending time outside in winter coats. It would be incredibly hot and uncomfortable! Because the pandas are not equipped for our climate, we are lucky enough to have two air-conditioned dayrooms that the pandas can spend the day in. We will give the pandas access to the outdoor habitats for as long as we can each day, but once temperatures reach about seventy-five degrees, we will bring all the pandas indoors. One bear (or two in the case of the twins) will get to spend the remainder of the day in an off-exhibit area. Each of the bears appreciates their time off differently, but they generally seem to enjoy having the keepers so close by because we are more accessible for biscuit feedings, training sessions, and keeper interaction.
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals  

Monday, May 2 
I am constantly reminded of how strong giant pandas really are. As if just watching them destroy bamboo culms that I have a tough time even just cracking isn't enough, the other day Lun Lun lifted one of the logs in her exhibit with just one paw. A log that takes a great amount of effort even just to roll. She just lifted it like it was nothing just to smell underneath it and put it back down. They find new ways to amaze me every day. 
Shauna D. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, April 25 
Lun Lun and Yang Yang both received a special treat recently. It was cool enough for a couple days that they were both able to spend almost a full day out in Habitat 3. What's even more special is that not only is there bamboo growing in there, but there are bamboo shoots growing too! Yang got to be out there first and spent a good amount of the morning just eating shoots. He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself all morning. Lun Lun got to go out there a couple days later, which allowed some of the shoots that were too small for Yang to eat to grow a bit more. After she found all the edible shoots, she found a delicious pile of bamboo to eat. I happened to be servicing the red panda habitat, which is right next to Habitat 3, when she finished eating her bamboo. When I looked up at her she was just getting into the pool that is in the habitat. She was in the pool for at least a minute splashing water on herself most of that time. Afterwards, she was running around destroying plants and anointing herself with them. It was quite the sight to see from a panda who is generally pretty composed. 
Shauna D. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Friday, April 22 
Feeding giant pandas can be challenging. It seems easy - they eat bamboo, right? Bamboo grows all over the place here in Georgia. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as that. Pandas don't eat every type of bamboo. There are only a few specific species that our pandas will eat. Even within those species, not every piece will be appetizing to the pandas. Each piece they eat has to be the right age, the right species, and have the right nutritional requirements, all of which the pandas can detect by smell. It takes a whole team here at the Zoo to feed the pandas. We keepers work closely with the bamboo harvesting team to decide which bamboos to offer every day based on what the bears are eating. We are lucky to have bamboo growing so close to the zoo and can choose among 6-7 species in hopes to keep the pandas happy and well-fed. However, it is not an easy task to feed such finicky eaters.
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Friday, April 15
Yesterday, we started ultrasound sessions with Lun Lun again. It's been three years since we have had to do ultrasounds with her, but she is so solid on this behavior, she doesn't even need practice. As soon as she is in the ultrasound training area, she knows what to do. However, the last time she saw the vet, he gave her an anesthetic injection, so she was not too thrilled to see him again. She was suspicious of him and would not take her attention away from him to train. No problem! Pandas are easily won over with food, so we spend most of the training session letting the vet feed her apples and bananas to get in her good graces again. Lun Lun also loves the ultrasound gel, so I suggested to the vet to squeeze some out near her, so she could smell and investigate it. He did. And it was hilarious. Lun Lun smelled the blob of gel and immediately looked at her belly! She sniffed it again and looked at her belly. She did this several times. It was such an amusing and interesting response to the gel. She is so smart! After this reaction, she was ready to lie down in the ultrasound position, so the vet squirted some gel on her belly. He always does this at the beginning of an ultrasound session to let her react to it and get that out of her system before we get down to business. She immediately sat up and sniffed the gel and started rolling around and self-anointing (her typical reaction to the gel). After she finished enjoying the gel, the vet was able to ultrasound her belly. No evidence of a cub yet, of course, but we will continue these sessions for the foreseeable future.
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Wednesday, April 13 
Everything is pretty status quo today. The pandas are eating pretty decently. Yang Yang is still showing some breeding-related behaviors, such as lots of walking and sniffing/scent marking. Lun Lun has prretty much gone back to normal, so I expect that Yang will start showing less breeding-related behaviors soon enough. The twins are still being adorable little bamboo mess-makers as they usually are.  Here are current weights:

Yang Yang: ???
Lun: 107.10 kg
Mei Lun: 66.90 kg
Mei Huan: 65.30 kg

You may be asking yourself: where's Yang's weight?  Well, I wasn't able to get a weight this morning because Mr. Yangsters was being difficult and left one back leg off the scale this morning when he was eating his morning biscuits. This resulted in a lower than normal weight. He knows how he is supposed to sit, but decided to do as he pleased and even gave me a "So? What are going to do about it?" look when I gave him the verbal scale cue again. Oh, that boy! Luckily, we weigh the pandas at the end of the day so I will still be able to get a p.m. weight...hopefully!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, April 11
It's been a fairly classic spring so far. The weather has been cool but gorgeous, and I think we've all noticed that pesky yellow "snow" in Atlanta over the last few weeks. As annoying as the pollen is, it's also great news for the pandas. It means we're moving into one of their favorite, albeit short-lived, seasons - shoot season! Over the next few weeks, keepers will spend a lot of their free time searching the bamboo stands around the Zoo for edible shoots for the pandas. It's early in the season yet, but we were able to harvest enough shoots today that all of the pandas were able to enjoy a few yesterday afternoon. They devoured them, so I think it's safe to say they thoroughly enjoyed the treat!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, April 8
Arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) season is here! Arrow is a spring/early summer bamboo for our pandas. It is almost entirely culm with very few leaves just on the top portion. The pandas usually destroy nearly the entire piece, so the keepers love to offer this species. And we generally can offer the pandas less bamboo total, which of course makes the bamboo guys happy as they have to cut less. One thing that many people may not know about arrow bamboo however, is that it has a protective sheath covering it. On these protective sheaths are tons of tiny hairs that will give you a rash if you are not careful when handling this bamboo. The younger the piece, the more sheath and hairs it has. Luckily, these hairs do not seem to irritate the pandas as they have hairy paws with thick pads and tough tongues. 
Shauna D. 
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, April 6
Not only do we test Lun's urine for estrogen/progesterone to detect hormonal changes, but there are behavioral changes that also let us know her hormones are starting to do something. She has this very specific forward roll into a standard sleeping position (which is on her back/side) that we only ever see during breeding and pregnancy/pseudopregnancy season. Another behavior is that she peels her bananas. All of our giant pandas will eat their banana with the peel on (the exception is Idgie red panda, who detests banana peels). But we know without a shadow of a doubt that Lun's hormones are going bonkers when she starts peeling her banana (in much the same way they process bamboo to eat the culm). It's pretty darn cute that she has these quirks!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, April 4
You may have noticed recently that Mei Lun and Mei Huan are occasionally separated for short periods of time throughout the day. There are a few reasons for this. The most common reason is for biscuit feedings. Mei Huan is a biscuit Hoover just like her mom, Lun Lun. Because she is such a little piggy, keepers have to be careful about feeding the girls together so that Mei Lun gets her entire mini-meal of biscuits and produce. Mei Lun, much like her dad, prefers to savor her biscuits, which makes for a much more leisurely meal. Usually the girls are willing to separate for that short period of time, which is helpful for keepers so that we can keep moving and get habitats and dayrooms cleaned and prepped with fresh bamboo for all of the pandas. The other reason you may see the girls separated is if one is choosing to sleep in a little. When we arrive in the mornings, one of the first things we do is weigh the pandas and give them a fresh meal. If one subadult is awake and the other is asleep, we will usually try to go ahead and get a fresh meal set up for the awake panda and allow the other to sleep. Because we want to know the pandas' weights first thing in the morning, we don't want the sleeping panda to bypass that step and go straight to breakfast. The girls are very tolerant of this routine, but keepers still keep a close eye on the girls just in case they decide they don't want to be alone and can alter our routines accordingly. 
Jennifer A. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Friday, April 1
Yesterday, we added new mulch to both of the panda dayrooms. Every year, we either completely replace the mulch or add new mulch on top of the existing mulch. Replacing the mulch involves digging out the old mulch and hauling it away. Then we pour in the fresh mulch. We do all of this work by hand, and it is very involved and labor-intensive. Adding new mulch is time consuming and strenuous, but much less so than changing out the old mulch. Fresh mulch is delivered to the building, and we use wheelbarrows to carry it and pour it into the dayrooms. Our Horticulture Team always helps us with mulch changes, which makes the process go by more quickly – the more hands the better! The dayrooms look so nice and fresh afterwards.
 

Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals

 
Wednesday, March 30 
We hope you heard the news that Lun Lun was artificially inseminated Monday night. We won’t know for sure if she’ll have a cub this year, but we’re hopeful! 
While panda breeding season was underway, we kept the pools in the habitat filled for our adults to use if they so desired. One panda in particular was not too keen on this new development. Mei Huan's favorite spot to sleep in one of the habitats is on the edge of the pool. Sometimes, she climbs into the pool to finish her naps. Obviously, she couldn’t sleep in a pool full of water, and even sleeping on the edge, sometimes her foot accidentally touched the water, which she didn't seem to like. The first day the pool was full, she tried sleeping in her favorite spot, but ended up moving onto the grassy area next to the pool because she couldn't seem to get comfortable next to the water. After that day, she took her naps on the pool edge. I guess she was determined to keep her spot even if she might get a little wet. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 
 
Friday, March 25 
Throughout the year we offer the pandas a variety of bamboo species. Some bamboos are only palatable during certain seasons, but we offer one bamboo species that the pandas will eat year-round. Yellow groove bamboo (sp. Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is our pandas' staple bamboo. They will eat it any time of year and they eat all parts of this bamboo, depending on the time of year. Because of our heavy reliance on yellow groove bamboo, our supplies are diminishing. We have many yellow groove sites; however, after 16 years of harvesting from these stands, each year we are left with less and less old-growth bamboo. Pandas prefer bamboo that has grown for two or more years and will rarely eat new the growth (except for the shoots, of course!). In the wild, pandas leave new bamboo to continue growing so that they have bamboo to eat in the following years. Yellow groove is a green leafy bamboo with a distinct yellow stripe in the groove on the stem (see photo). We are asking our fellow Atlantans to help us find some additional yellow groove stands. Do you have yellow groove bamboo growing in your yard or privately-owned property that you would be willing to donate to the pandas? We can only accept bamboo that has been harvested by Zoo Atlanta in order to ensure it meets our harvesting standards. If you believe you have yellow groove bamboo, please call the Bamboo Hotline at 404.624.5884 to inquire about donating it to our pandas. They will appreciate it very much!


Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals
 
Wednesday, March 23 
The twins eat lot. And poop a lot. I know we say this often, but we're always amazed and the volume two growing pandas consume! And the mess they make! Good grief, it is definitely a task to clean up after them sometimes! The mess comes from the fact that they do a VERY good job processing the bamboo and eating it. But they also love to drag pieces all over the dayroom and eat in different spots. So, the bamboo gets scattered. Also, their play sessions, while adorable to watch, means the poop gets smashed into the ground, and EVERYTHING gets scattered around as they romp around the area pouncing on each other.  Oy! 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores 
 
Monday, March 14
There is still no change in Lun Lun's hormone levels, but we continue to collect her urine on a daily basis to test her levels. We have noticed an increase in the adults' desire to engage in water play. We aren't quite sure why they do this but during the breeding season; the adults will sit in their pools and sometimes splash water on themselves. It’s pretty cute to see, especially when on a normal basis they will go out of their way to avoid stepping in a puddle of water. After they drag half the pool's water out with them and walk around a bit, they definitely have that "wet panda smell" going. We think that may be one reason they go in the pool during breeding season, to increase their scent. 
Shauna 
Keeper II, Mammals​


Wednesday, March 9
Today is one of those days in pandas that keepers live for. All of the pandas are destroying their bamboo (in a good way!). Good bamboo = happy pandas = happy keepers. Last week was a rough bamboo week with only Mei Lun and Mei Huan enjoying the bamboo we had on hand. The bamboo in Habitat 3 is almost gone, so both Lun Lun and Yang Yang were pretty grumpy most of last week. When I came in today I thought someone had swapped out our pandas over my weekend and replaced them with bamboo-eating robots. Lun Lun and Yang Yang didn't stop eating their breakfast until after noon - unheard of for those two! After eating, they both took long naps. Mei Lun and Mei Huan ate all morning and then slept while the keepers had lunch. It is rare these days for the girls to not need to be fed before lunch. It has definitely been a weird day, but I'm not complaining!

Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Monday, March 7 
PandaLand has been pretty status quo lately. We are doing our best to let the pandas spend as much time in the outdoor habitats as possible because we know that we'll hit warm weather very soon. All of the pandas seem to enjoy spending time in Habitat 3, and we have used it nearly every day for the past week. Yang Yang continues to show breeding behaviors and is gaining weight in anticipation of impressing the ladies (sorry, buddy). We keepers are continuing to stay busy and complete as many extra projects as we can before panda breeding season arrives! 
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, March 2 
I hope nobody is tired of hearing about the pandas using Habitat 3 yet! I think we keepers are just as excited about the pandas being in Habitat 3 as the pandas are. We enjoy how much the pandas love using this habitat. We love watching them forage on the bamboo that grows in there. Now that we are using this habitat again, whenever the pandas are in Habitat 2, they are focused on Habitat 3 and letting us know that they would like to go over there. Pandas can be hard to please sometimes, so it's great for us to find something that they really enjoy and keeps them happy. Lun Lun was a hoot out there on Saturday. She got so playful! She was running around the habitat, rolling in the bamboo and throwing around loose pieces of bamboo that she ran across. She initiated play with keepers (through the fence barrier, of course!) and ran along the fence-line with us. These are all behaviors we see regularly from Yang Yang, but are extremely rare from Lun Lun. It was fantastic!
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals 

Photo by Heather Roberts 

Monday, February 29 
Use of the off-exhibit habitat is now in full swing! Lun Lun had a chance to spend the day in the off-exhibit yard on Saturday, and keepers told me she had a great time running, playing, and eating the bamboo that naturally grows in the yard. On Sunday, the twins got their opportunity to experience this habitat for the very first time. Both girls were very cautious while shifting through the tunnel that leads from Habitat 2 to Habitat 3. It was really interesting to watch how each panda explored her new surroundings. Mei Huan took off and made a quick lap around the yard before she settled in at a small stand of Arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica). I was amazed to see Mei Huan's natural instincts kick in as she easily plucked her chosen stalks of bamboo from the ground to eat. Mei Lun, on the other hand, hung out with the keepers near the shift door for a few minutes before venturing off to explore. She even had her first Idgie sighting since one side of the habitat is across the path from the red panda exhibit. Mei Lun seemed intrigued but moved on quickly. Idgie wasn't as thrilled with her new neighbors and gave Mei Lun the stink eye before heading back into her tree. The girls spent most of the morning exploring and eating, and although they had access to Habitat 2, they didn't venture back over until it was time for their mid-afternoon feeding. They really seemed to enjoy their time out in Habitat 3!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

(photo by Jen Andrew)

Friday, February 26
Yang Yang got to hang out in the off-exhibit habitat today! He had such a good time eating the bamboo and sitting in the pool. Being out in that habitat seems to make him playful as well. We saw him gamboling and running around in a playful way. Lun Lun happened to be in the habitat next door and could see Yang Yang. She looked like she would also like to go in the off-exhibit habitat; we saw her looking in that direction and sitting by the shift door that leads there several times. Lun Lun will have her turn tomorrow.



Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, February 24
The twins recently received their second distemper vaccine booster. One of our vets, Dr. Sam, came up to the building to administer the vaccine. The girls are still learning to present their shoulders and hold the position, so we decided to go for an injection in the hip. For this we had the girls enter our mobile "squeeze cage" (named so because one of the sides can be pushed inward) one at a time. The cage can be rolled out of the tunnel it's in so the vets have 360-degree access to the bear. Mei Lun is trained to lie down for a reward. Mei Huan is still struggling with understanding what this behavior is, so for her we simply asked for a target in in opposite corner from where our vet was, so her hip would naturally be in the correct spot. The girls were fantabulous! They didn't flinch or react whatsoever to getting an injection in their hip! Afterwards, we allowed Dr. Sam to feed the girls to maintain that positive relationship. The whole process went very quickly and very smoothly. Afterwards, Dr. Sam stopped by one of the dens Yang Yang was in. We like it when the vets come up just to feed biscuits and reinforce that positive relationship. If the animals only see the vets when they get a shot, they might develop a negative association with with vets. Yang Yang still remembers getting his distemper booster a few weeks ago so he was still quite a bit weary of Dr. Sam, but he did take a few biscuits so that's something!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, February 22 
We celebrated Valentine's Day at the Zoo recently, and that of course means that all the critters received special themed enrichment. The enrichment ranged from themed cutouts, to heart-shaped frozen treats of all types, to heart-shaped paper mache. This year the giant pandas all received heart-shaped sugarcane-cicles, paper mache hearts, and "Hershey Kisses" which were paper bags decorated to look like Kisses. Yang Yang made a beeline for his enrichment. He tore everything open and gobbled up all his treats before moving on to his bamboo. He gnawed on the ice of the sugarcane-cicle in order to free the delicious sugarcane. He even opened his paper items in such a way so as to not drop any biscuits on the ground. He's a pretty smart guy. Lun Lun only noticed the Kiss at first then went onto eating bamboo for a while before realizing that there was more. The twins, too, received their own treats. We were able to separate the girls when they got their treats in order to give both of them plenty of time to enjoy their own enrichment. Mei Huan, being the quick eater that she is, devoured the sugarcane as quickly as she could and moved right on to destroying all the paper items to get to her biscuits. Mei Lun took her time as usual. She first had to decide which item to explore. Even then she stopped partway through munching on her biscuits to see what else was there. I'm glad we were able to separate them for that short period; otherwise Mei Huan likely would have gotten 90 percent of the treats.

Shauna D. 
Keeper II, Mammals

(photo by Shauna Dankberg)

Friday, February 19
Everything is pretty status quo in PandaLand. The girls are gaining weight steadily, as is Yang Yang in prep for breeding season (he thinks being a big guy will entice Lun Lun and any other female he “might” come across, ha ha!). Lun Lun is holding steady at her slightly chunky weight. Even though she doesn’t have a cub, she eats like she is eating for two (or three)! Their current weights are as follows: Yang Yang, 301.95 pounds; Lun Lun, 250.61 pounds; Mei Lun, 139.67 pounds; and Mei Huan, 139.34 pounds. 

Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Wednesday, February 17
Mei Huan is having a love affair with one of her enrichment items: the culvert. We have had the culvert for a long time and it has provided hours of fun for every giant panda that has lived at Zoo Atlanta. We don't offer it too often to keep up their interest, but also because it is bulky and can be tricky to get in and out of the dayrooms. Lun Lun even plays with her cubs in the culvert, so you know it must be a good thing when she interacts with it. Fast-forward to this week … I gave the twins access to a dayroom overnight with the culvert in it. As soon as Mei Huan saw it, she jumped into it and started rolling around. She scratched at it and bit it. She left and came back to play with it multiple times while I was still here closing up the panda house. At one point, she had been lying in there for so long, I thought she fell asleep in it! Her sister joined in on the fun for a while, but as is typical of Mei Lun, eating bamboo won over play. The next day, Jen hung it from the structure, so that it was just slightly off of the ground. Mei Huan loved it so much, she had to be touching it while she was sleeping on that structure and even rested half of her body on it while sleeping. She has had us in stitches all week!
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, February 15
We're still in the early stages of breeding season, but we're already gearing up! By this I mean we're taking daily samples of urine from Lun Lun and sending the samples off routinely to have the estrogen and progesterone levels analyzed. This means we usually house Lun Lun in our off-exhibit dens overnight so we are usually guaranteed a sample to collect in the morning (it doesn't have to be fresh, yet).  But as part of our behavioral management program at Zoo Atlanta, we like to provide the critters in our care with as many options and variability as we can to enrich their lives. This means, for example, housing the pandas in different locations each night (or not if that's the case).  Lun Lun enjoys spending the night in the dayrooms just as much, so on nights when we house her there, you might notice the next day she is off exhibit over lunch.  This is because she usually takes a nap during lunch, and when she wakes up she goes to the bathroom! So there's that daily urine sample we didn't get in the morning because she had gone in the mulch overnight. 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, February 10
Lun Lun recently received a new enrichment device made by one of our handy keepers. We call it a PVC cap feeder, as that is essentially what it is. It is four PVC caps stacked on each other with a PVC piece going down the center to keep them together. We can put biscuits and small pieces of produce in each cap and then hang the device so that each layer has to be manipulated in order to retrieve the treats. It took Lun a minute and a bit of trial and error but she figured out a way to get the treats from each layer. She ended up grabbing the device with her paws and using her nose to separate each layer and let the biscuits fall out. She's so smart! Enrichment such as this device is important, as it provides the animals in our care with a choice. They can choose whether or not they want to interact with it. It also provides them with mental and physical stimulation. One of the most difficult but also rewarding parts of a zookeeper's job is coming up with new ways to enrich our critters and watching the "light bulb" go off in their heads when they figure out the device. 
Shauna D.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, February 8

Panda breeding season will be getting started soon. While there are still no changes in Lun Lun's hormones, Yang Yang is definitely acting different. He has put on a bit extra weight as males tend to do when they want to impress the female pandas. He is also walking a bit more. Extra walking is a natural behavior for male giant pandas. He's surveying his territory, making sure there aren't any other males around, and checking to see if the females in his territory have gone into estrus. He may be seen marking areas around the exhibit using his anogenital scent glands. These markings communicate a number of things to other pandas, including things like age, gender and reproductive status. He is also searching for "responses" to such markings. As Lun Lun comes into estrus she may also scent-mark areas to advertise her status.
Shauna D.
Keeper II, Mammals


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.)



 

 

Subscribe to our email newsletter

Connect