Weaning process has begun for Po the giant panda
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Lun Lun and her youngest began gradually spending time apart on January 3
ATLANTA – January 9, 2013 – Po the giant panda cub is officially on his way to life as an independent bear. The weaning process for Po began on January 3, 2013.
Now 26 months old, Po is older than the average age of 18 months typically observed in the wild, and he now tips the scales at around 114 pounds. The Animal Management Team uses a stepwise process, developed by partners at San Diego Zoo Global and used successfully with the weaning of Po’s older brothers, Xi Lan and Mei Lan. The roughly two-week process, which will conclude on Friday, January 18, focuses on gradually increasing the amount of time mother and cub spend apart.
Born to Lun Lun on November 3, 2010, Po is eating large quantities of bamboo, as well as leafeater biscuits and fruit, with only occasional bouts of nursing. According to data from Zoo Atlanta, other partner institutions, and information about wild giant pandas, Po is at the appropriate age to make a healthy transition to a completely solid diet.
“Po’s weaning process is moving along well, and we know from the behavior of his two brothers and Lun Lun that we have an effective plan,” said Rebecca Snyder, PhD, Curator of Mammals. “It’s easy to feel nostalgic about Po and Lun Lun living together, but this is a natural and necessary milestone in the life of any young mammal, particularly in a solitary species like giant pandas.”
Po’s and Lun Lun’s behavioral reactions to their temporary separations have been normal and expected thus far, with the cub occasionally bleating and spending time walking in response to time away from his mother. Both Lun Lun and Po are provided with extra enrichment during this time, and animal care staff will continue to monitor the pair’s behavior during their separations and reunions.
Once the weaning process is complete, Po, Lun Lun, Yang Yang and Xi Lan will be located in separate giant panda exhibits. It is hoped that Lun Lun will experience her annual estrus in late March or early April, within the normal timeframe of giant panda breeding season.
“Our number one priority at Zoo Atlanta is doing what’s in the best interest of the animals. I’m confident that the Animal Management Team have and will continue to dedicate themselves to ensuring that the weaning process for Po and Lun Lun is done with the highest level of care,” said Raymond King, President and CEO. “We look forward to seeing Po enter an exciting new chapter of his life.”