e-mail

share

Farewell to Mei Lan

Mei Lan Wallpapers
1024 x 768 pixels (big)
800 x 600 pixels (small)
1024 x 768 pixels (big)
800 x 600 pixels (small)
1024 x 768 pixels (big)
800 x 600 pixels (small)
 
Best of Mei Lan
Mei Lan, Year 1: September 06 - September 07
Mei Lan, Year 2: September 07 - September 08
Mei Lan, Year 3: September 08 - September 09
November 11, 2011
I was in China the last week of October for a giant panda meeting. At the end of the trip I visited the Chengdu Research Base and saw Mei Lan! He is doing really well! He was sleeping when I arrived, but his keepers tossed some fresh bamboo to him and called him to wake him up (he speaks Chinese now =) and that did the trick. He sat and ate bamboo for a long time while I took pictures and just enjoyed watching him. He looks great and seemed very content to me. His keepers said he’s eating well and is healthy. He is in the same enclosure that he’s been in since he was released from quarantine. All of the enclosures at the Research Base are nice, but Mei Lan’s area is especially large and lush.

It was interesting to see how popular he is with visitors. When visitors were told that the panda they were looking at was Mei Lan, most of them knew who he was and that he was born in the United States. When the Research Base staff told guests that I had known Mei Lan since he was born, I became pretty popular too and was asked to pose for pictures with some of the visitors. This reminded me of my old days in China. When I was collecting behavioral data at the Research Base and Chengdu Zoo for my dissertation, I used to be asked to be in pictures with Chinese visitors frequently. I think I appear in the photo albums of many Chinese families.

I spent most of 1997-1999 at the Chengdu Research Base and the Chengdu Zoo collecting data for my dissertation and other behavioral studies on the pandas. From 2000-2007 I went to Chengdu 1-3 times a year to train keepers and graduate students for data collection on studies. Chengdu was like a second home to me. Then I had a baby and took a break from traveling to China.

It had been four years since I’d been to Chengdu. It was great to go back and see all the changes in the city and at the Research Base. The developed part of the Research Base has nearly doubled in size since I was last there. I especially loved seeing my old friends. Some of them are pandas, like Yang Yang’s mom, Ya Ya. She was a favorite of mine even before she had Yang Yang. She was playing with two year-old cubs when I was there. I was so happy to see her playing with cubs. She’s such a great mom and my fondest memories of Yang Yang as a cub are of him playing with his mom. Some of my old friends are people. Two of my former Chinese research assistants have children now too. We spent most of our time talking about our kids. It was a joy to meet their children and to see my friends as parents. I hope to take my daughter to China in a few years, so that she can meet my friends and their children too. I hope Mei Lan will have fathered some babies by then that she can also meet!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Watch video of Earth Hour Ambassador Mei Lan as she turns off the lights

March 19, 2010
We are continuing to receive regular updates about Mei Lan to share with you. A former employee of Zoo Atlanta, Dr. Sarah Bexell, is a full time employee at the Chengdu Research Base. Sarah is the Director of Conservation Education and Communications at the Base and also a dear friend of mine. Sarah will be checking regularly on Mei Lan and sending updates about her.

Sarah said that she talked with Mei Lan’s keeper this week and her keeper said that she has been eating and resting well. Sarah saw Mei Lan sleeping peacefully in her outdoor enclosure on Tuesday. Today she saw Mei Lan having a nap in her indoor enclosure. Sarah said the temperature is in the high 70’s today, and so most of the pandas were inside where it is cooler.

We are very pleased with how well Mei Lan has adjusted to leaving the quarantine area. She settled right in at her new enclosure. It sounds like she is feeling at home at the Research Base now.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Wednesday, March 17- Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Yesterday I heard from two of our colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base. They both tell me that Mei Lan is doing beautifully! She is eating bamboo as heartily as she did here and she is bonding with her keepers. While I was in Chengdu with Mei Lan, I had a chance to see the building where she is currently housed. As you can see from the photo posted last week, she has a large, beautiful and enriching outdoor enclosure. There are four other yards for neighboring pandas at this building as well. When I was there, four adult pandas and a group of five sub-adult pandas were living in this building. I do not know who her neighbors are now, but she seems to be doing just fine with them in the adjacent yards. Additionally, Mei Lan had her debut to the public this week and took it all in stride. Just like here in Atlanta, Mei Lan is a celebrity in Chengdu and people there have been waiting weeks to see her. While Mei Lan was adjusting to her new life in Chengdu in quarantine, the Research Base staff did not allow the media access to her because unfamiliar people upset her. Now that she is settled into her new home, Mei Lan has resumed her place in the spotlight. We all miss Mei Lan, but it is exciting to hear news from Chengdu that she is enjoying her new home!

Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

 

Mei Lan's new habitat
Wednesday, March 10
Mei Lan continues to do well at the Chengdu Research Base. She is eating a normal amount of bamboo and has been spending a lot of time outside. She was moved out of quarantine a few days ago and seems to be adjusting well to her new enclosure. Bonnie is leaving Chengdu this week, but we will continue to receive regular updates on Mei Lan, which we will share with you.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Wednesday, March 3
Bonnie reported that Mei Lan is doing very well. She is eating bamboo well. Based on her fecal amounts, she is eating as much bamboo at the Research Base as she did when she was at Zoo Atlanta. The Research Base staff is planning to move her out of quarantine in a few days. So, she will have to adjust to a new enclosure, but that should be a much faster and easier transition than her initial adjustment period.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Tuesday, February 23
Bonnie has sent me a couple of updates on Mei Lan since Heather left Chengdu. I am happy to report that Mei Lan is doing very well! She is eating and behaving normally. Bonnie said Mei Lan is back to her usual self. She came over when Bonnie called her, and then went back to eating bamboo. She has received another new species of bamboo and likes it. So, she’s eating a few species well now. The keepers at the Research Base weigh the pandas’ feces daily like we do at Zoo Atlanta. It’s a good way to quantify how well the pandas are eating. The amount of feces Mei Lan is producing now is within the normal range she produced at Zoo Atlanta. That means she is eating as well as she did here. That’s great news!

She still has some new experiences ahead of her, but I think she’s made it through the most difficult part of her transition. We are very proud of her!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Thursday, February 18
Today was Heather’s last day with Mei Lan. Heather said it was a really good day and that Mei Lan is well on her way to adjusting to her new life. Her activity pattern today was pretty close to the normal pattern for a captive giant panda. She alternated resting and sleeping throughout the day. She ate bamboo culm (stalk) from a new species of bamboo she received and also ate leaves from another species she’s been eating the last several days. Heather said Mei Lan is much calmer and is starting to respond to her new keeper.

Even though Heather is leaving Chengdu, Mei Lan will still have a familiar face from Atlanta with her until mid-March. A graduate student from Georgia Tech, Bonnie Perdue, has been at the Research Base since October collecting data for her dissertation. Bonnie has studied the pandas at Zoo Atlanta for several years. So, Mei Lan is familiar with her. Bonnie will continue to check on Mei Lan and let us know how she is doing.

Heather summed up her journey with Mei Lan well in a message about their last day together, “Although I will miss her dearly in Atlanta, Mei is in good hands here and I am confident she will do well.”
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 


Wednesday, February 17

According to Heather, Mei Lan seems to have developed a routine. She is usually active in the morning and spends most of her time walking around her enclosure. She rests mid-day, and then eats bamboo later in the afternoon. She also eats some fruit periodically during the day. In Atlanta, she usually alternated between resting and eating. That’s a normal behavioral pattern for a giant panda. As she adjusts more to life at the Research Base, I expect she will revert to that pattern, which is also typical for the other pandas living there. For now, the fact that she has a routine is good, because that’s part of adjusting to a new place.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Tuesday, February 16
Heather said Mei Lan had her best day so far today. She alternated between resting and eating bamboo during the day, which is normal giant panda behavior. She also ate two apples and half a banana, which is the amount of fruit she normally consumed daily in Atlanta. Heather said Mei Lan did not react when she heard the truck that delivers bamboo. She also participated in some training with Heather. Another keeper has been caring for Mei Lan during the Spring Festival holiday. Her name is Zhang Li Lan. Heather said she is just as nice as Mei Lan’s other keeper, Ms. Duan, and sits and talks with Mei Lan as much as she can.

Mei Lan is showing a preference for one of the species of bamboo that she’s been offered. The common name for it in Chinese is ruo zhu. Heather said it looks kind of like a type of bamboo we feed the pandas in Atlanta. The common name for that bamboo is arrow, and it’s one of Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s favorites.

It is encouraging to hear that Mei Lan had a really good day. We hope that means she is well on her way to feeling at home at the Research Base.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Monday, February 15
Mei Lan increased her bamboo consumption over the weekend. As a result she’s been producing more feces, which continue to be normal. We are really pleased that she is eating bamboo better. She’s still not eating as much as she did in Atlanta. But that will come. Heather said that Mei Lan’s new keeper reported that Mei Lan ate bamboo for an full hour on Saturday. That’s a long bout of eating and a really good sign that she’s adjusting to the bamboo and is more comfortable in her surroundings. She also went outside briefly and came back inside when Heather called her. Mei Lan is still spending quite a bit of time walking around her enclosure and continues to react to some noises. However, this is lessening. Overall, she seems to be adjusting more and more.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Friday, February 12
Mei Lan ate more bamboo today than she has in previous days. That’s a good sign that she is starting to develop a taste for the new species of bamboo she’s been offered. Heather said Mei Lan is still reacting to some noises around her. She is calmer in the presence of the Research Base staff, but hasn’t yet become accustomed to other routine noises at the Research Base. It’s normally a pretty tranquil place. It’s located on the edge of the city. In comparison to the bustle of the city, the Research Base is a green, peaceful oasis. It’s also very, very large, measuring over 500 acres. Only about a third of this area is developed. Despite its large size, the Research Base is near a city of 8 million people. All of those people are celebrating Chinese New Year and Spring Festival now. One of the ways they celebrate Chinese New Year is by setting off a lot of fireworks. The noise from this is pretty minimal at the Research Base. The giant pandas living there normally don’t take any notice of it. But for Mei Lan it’s another new noise in a still new place. Luckily, the celebration will be winding down soon and the Research Base will be a peaceful place again.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Thursday, February 11
Mei Lan spent more time resting today. She was asleep when Heather arrived this morning and continued to sleep after Heather’s arrival. Mei Lan is drinking regularly and eating bamboo. She is not, yet, eating as much bamboo as she did at Zoo Atlanta. As we have reported many times about the giant pandas, they can be very selective about their bamboo. The species of bamboo that are plentiful and accessible in the area of the Chengdu Research Base are different from the species plentiful and accessible in Atlanta. It took Yang Yang and Lun Lun about a month to adjust to the bamboo here and start eating bamboo well. So, we expect it’s going to take Mei Lan at least that long too. Most of the bamboo fed to the pandas at the Research Base is brought in on large trucks from the mountains surrounding Chengdu. They have a lot of pandas to feed, and so they truck in large quantities of bamboo. There are also several species of bamboo that grow on the grounds of the Research Base. Ms. Duan has also been cutting these to offer to Mei Lan. So, far Ms. Duan has offered Mei Lan 5-6 different species. Heather said Mei Lan liked one of these better than the others, but so far she doesn’t have a clear favorite.

We have decided to extend Heather’s stay in Chengdu. We hope that some additional days with Heather will help Mei Lan continue to adjust to her new home.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, February 10
Mei Lan is continuing to adjust slowly to her new home. Heather reported that Mei Lan ate some bamboo today and had normal feces again. Mei Lan also ate some banana that Heather offered her.

The giant pandas at the Chengdu Research Base are not normally fed bananas. They receive apples and carrots in addition to their bamboo and biscuits. We started feeding Yang Yang and Lun Lun bananas after they arrived in Atlanta because it’s easy to put medication in bananas. It’s always useful to have a good food vehicle to deliver medications to an animal. It took a few exposures to banana before Yang Yang and Lun Lun would eat them. Because giant pandas are feeding specialists, they tend to be reluctant to try new foods. Lun Lun used to peel her bananas and would not eat the peels. Eventually, she stopped peeling them and ate the peel with the fruit. Mei Lan learned to eat bananas because they were a regular part of her mother’s diet.

Mei Lan’s new keeper, Ms. Duan, had asked Heather what Mei Lan’s favorite food is. Heather told her that Mei Lan especially likes bananas and sugarcane. Later that day, Ms. Duan, brought bananas for Mei Lan. She didn’t eat any the first day, but did eat some today. Banana will be a good food for Ms. Duan to use to reinforce Mei Lan during training sessions.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Tuesday, February 9
Heather says that Mei Lan is a little calmer today. She seems to be growing more accustomed to the sounds around her and is reacting less. She shifted into the adjacent enclosure today for cleaning while Heather was there and Heather was pleased to see that all of Mei Lan’s feces were normal. It might sound like a strange thing to note and be happy about, but stool quality provides information about how an animal is eating and about its health. Normal, well formed stools are a good thing!

Heather said she also had a good conversation with Mei Lan’s new keeper, Duan Dong Qun, through a translator. Ms. Duan had lots of questions about Mei Lan: her personality, her favorite foods, how to train her, and communicate with her. Heather said she couldn’t ask for a better person to care for Mei Lan. Ms. Duan is being very sensitive to Mei Lan and is doing everything she can to make her comfortable. She told Heather that she is really looking forward to building a good relationship with Mei Lan. We are all happy that Mei Lan is in such good hands.   
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Monday, February 8
We received good news from Heather Roberts today that Mei Lan is starting to settle into her new home. The first couple of days, Mei Lan did not eat much and she was easily startled by sounds around her. Sunday and Monday she started to eat more and she drank well. Heather reported that Mei Lan is also calmer and spending more time resting. These are very good signs and we expect that Mei Lan will continue to become more and more comfortable in her new surroundings.

I am sure that Mei Lan’s fans are worried about her and that it’s difficult to read that she is not entirely at ease in her new home. Of course, we would all have liked to see Mei Lan adjust immediately to her new home as though nothing had changed. But that would not be a normal reaction and we did not expect her to adjust immediately.

Traveling to China is a big change. It’s a long journey, there is a 12 hour time change, the food is different, the language is different, the sights and smells are different. It takes a person at least a few days to adjust to that. So, we should expect it to take Mei Lan some time to adjust as well. Most people prefer to travel with a friend, rather than alone, because all those changes can be stressful and it’s comforting to have a friend along. We sent Heather with Mei Lan to be her friend and to help her with the changes. We also sent one of our veterinarians, Dr. Sam Rivera, to Chengdu to make sure Mei Lan remains healthy. She is healthy and she will adjust, but it’s going to take a little time.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Friday, February 5
Mei Lan has landed!

Mei Lan landed safely in Chengdu and is now at her new home at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Zoo Atlanta received an update this morning from Heather Roberts, the keeper who accompanied Mei Lan on the trip. Heather reported that Mei Lan was unsettled on and off during the flight, but she did eat and rest during the journey and seemed to be reassured by Heather’s presence. There was a larger welcoming ceremony when they arrived at the Chengdu airport, where Mei Lan’s arrival was enthusiastically celebrated.

Heather said that the staff at the Chengdu Research Base was very responsive to Mei Lan and did a good job transferring her quickly to the Research Base. Heather went with Mei Lan to the Research Base and was able to coax her out of her transport crate and into her new enclosure. Although it was a long journey for Mei Lan, we are grateful to FedEx Express that the trip went as quickly and smoothly as possible and that she has arrived healthy and safe. Stay tuned for continued updates on Mei Lan’s adjustment to her new home.

Best of Mei Lan

Download the Flash plug-in to see the Flash-based content on this site.

Mei Lan Fan Mail

Download the Flash plug-in to see the Flash-based content on this site.

Heather said she also had a good conversation with Mei Lan’s new keeper, Duan Dong Qun, through a translator. Ms. Duan had lots of questions about Mei Lan: her personality, her favorite foods, how to train her, and communicate with her. Heather said she couldn’t ask for a better person to care for Mei Lan. Ms. Duan is being very sensitive to Mei Lan and is doing everything she can to make her comfortable. She told Heather that she is really looking forward to building a good relationship with Mei Lan. We are all happy that Mei Lan is in such good hands.   
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals