Best of Mei Lan, Year 1

  September 6, Lun Lun and cub

Wednesday, September 6
Our wait is over!
Lun Lun gave birth on September 6 at 4:51 P.M.

Both the cub and mother seem to be doing fine. We have very little to share at this moment, but will keep posting updates daily about Lun Lun's and the cub's progress.
Dr. Rebecca Snyder
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

Monday, September 11
Last night Lun Lun left her cub for the first time to get a drink of water. This is the first drink she has had since Wednesday before she gave birth. She placed the cub on the floor and left it for about three minutes. She refused food after drinking, returned to the cub and picked it up. Giant panda mothers normally go without drinking or eating for at least a few days after giving birth. One wild female did not drink or eat for 25 days after giving birth!
Dr. Rebecca Snyder
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

The cub's first exam
determined today that
it's a girl!

Monday, September 25
It's a GIRL!
Today, we separated Lun Lun from her cub to perform the cub’s first health check. The procedure went very smoothly. Lun Lun left the cub to eat in the adjacent den, the door was closed behind her, and then the veterinary staff removed the cub. Lun Lun ate biscuits and fruit calmly while the cub was away and the keepers cleaned her den and nest boxes. The cub did not vocalize during the health check, which is probably why Lun Lun remained calm. After 10 minutes, the cub was returned to the nest box and the door between the dens was opened. Lun Lun went straight to the cub, smelled it, investigated the den briefly and then picked the cub up. The cub nursed a few minutes later and then both mother and cub rested.

During the health check, the cub’s weight, body measurements, and temperature were recorded. The cub is in excellent health and developing normally. The cub’s gender was also identified. It’s a girl!

Although I did not have a strong preference for the cub’s gender, I am happy that it is a female, because I have fewer mother-reared females in my study of behavioral development. So, Lun Lun’s cub will be a welcome addition to the study. Most of all I am delighted that the cub is healthy and Lun Lun is taking wonderful care of it.
Dr. Rebecca Snyder
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

Friday, October 6
One month old!
Lun Lun was more wary this time, but she did move into an adjacent den when called by a keeper. We closed the door between the two dens, and then our senior veterinarian removed the cub. The cub was quiet during the exam, which took less than 10 minutes. Lun Lun participated in a training session while her cub was examined and bedding was changed in the nest box. Then the cub was returned to the nest box and Lun Lun was given access to her. Lun Lun picked her cub up within a minute and nursed her about 15 minutes later.
Dr. Rebecca Snyder
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

mugging for the camera during her
fourth exam

Thursday, October 19
The cub had her fourth health check today. She continues to thrive. Her weight was 2.24 kg (4.9 lbs). She gained over a pound (514 g) in the last week. Her length was 43 cm (17 in) from her nose to the tip of her tail. The cub’s teeth are now visible under the gum line. The first teeth usually erupt when the cub is around 75 days old.

Obtaining a weekly weight on the cub is important to track her growth, ensure that she is receiving adequate milk, and ensure that her development is normal. Her weight and measurement information will also contribute to the global database on giant panda infants. Zoo Atlanta is using a more hands off approach in managing Lun Lun and her cub than some other institutions, particularly those in China. Thus, it is important to collect regular weight and measurement information on this cub, so that her development can be compared that of cubs managed differently.

The cub nursed right before the exam. Lun Lun shifted into the adjacent den readily and participated in a training session while her cub was away. The exam took less then 10 minutes. When Lun Lun was given access to her cub after the exam, she did not return immediately. She spent a few minutes grooming and then returned to her cub. Lun Lun then picked up her cub and licked her.
Dr. Rebecca Snyder
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

Sunday, October 29
It may appear that our beautiful baby girl is just lying about most of the time, but she is in fact working out. As with most babies, she sure does sleep much of the time, but when she is awake, you can see her, via the Panda Cam, moving her arms, legs and head. While these movements may seem uncoordinated or not very noteworthy, she is in fact strengthening and coordinating her muscles and their movements. This is vital if she is to develop at a normal progression towards walking, climbing and running. Much like a human child, at birth the cub’s muscles are not developed enough to allow for her to do very much. However, it didn’t take very long before she started passing some significant milestones. She has already mastered the art of rolling herself over when she winds up on her back. She has also been seen lifting her head and pushing herself up onto her forelimbs. Both of these milestones are part of the normal progression of development. At around two and a half months, she will be able to sit up by herself for the first time.  Sitting up will soon be followed by her scooting around on the floor—not quite mobile, but well on her way. At about three months of age, the cub will officially become mobile and start to crawl. From this activity, she will gain a lot of muscle mass and coordination needed for her to literally take the next step in her development. At four months of age, the cub will begin to walk and will begin climbing onto things, including Lun Lun, as everything will start to become a play object. Once she has mastered walking, she will be off and running at about five months of age. Also at this time, she will master the art of climbing, going higher and higher than she ever has. As all parents know, this is when thing start to become really interesting. All of these things are very exciting to imagine her doing in the future, but for now we will just have to wait and watch. Next time you look at our beautiful girl and think that she isn’t doing much of anything, remember that she is working diligently to continue her development towards opening up the world for her to experience.
Kenn Harwood
Large Mammal Relief Keeper III

  Just shy of 10 lbs

Friday, December 1
So when you see an animal every day, you pay a lot less attention to details like size, weight, etc as it does not change noticeably between shifts. But then every once in a while, like yesterday for me with our little panda cub, you stop and ask yourself, "GEEZ, when did she get so BIG???"

As the baby panda gets closer to her 100 day milestone, every vet check sees her happy, healthy, and huge. But the panda team, and frankly all of Atlanta I would guess, are looking forward to her finally having a name of her own. "The cub" or "Lun Lun and Yang Yang's baby" are starting to wear a little thin. The generation of the final names for the ajc.com/pandavote poll was an interesting and involved process, but we now have ten good choices for Atlanta, and anyone on the web, to decide on.

So to help you decide, here's what little there is to tell you about the cub that you may not know or recall. She was born in the afternoon of September 6, and that day was indeed a full moon.She is the only cub born outside of China this year, and so is unique and special. While she is born an Atlantean, she will eventually go back to China, which will likely be her home. Since both parents hail from Chengdu, this may give our little girl dual citizenship. Who knows? But she is very quiet most of the time, not too fussy, and already showing her mother's curiosity in her environment. Both her parents are very intelligent, so we have high hopes for her. Now it's up to you to help us choose the best name possible. I know which one I'm voting for!
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

Mei Lan's first steps  

Friday, December 15, 100 Day Ceremony
Her name is Mei Lan!
Cub watchers of Atlanta, and voters around the world. In case you somehow missed all the pomp and celebration surrounding today's 100 Day Naming Ceremony here at Zoo Atlanta, our cub has been christened "Mei Lan," which roughly translates to "Atlanta Beauty." At the end of an amazing ceremony, attended by leaders and dignitaries from China and Georgia, Dennis Kelly and Dr. Zhang Zhihe dropped a curtain to reveal the cub's new name to the guests, the media, and the world. We are all proud to be part of the family here for this momentous event, and hope that all of you who follow Mei Lan's growth feel as privileged as we do to be partners to China, and the world, in furthering the conservation, care and understanding of China's national treasures.

On a more direct note, Mei Lan tried her darndest today to heave herself over the edge of her little nest box. With mom contentedly munching bamboo next door, and the keepers watching, she laboriously managed to haul her head, front right paw, and leg over the edge, well on her way to freedom (well, from the nest box, anyhow). Unfortunately, her developing baby muscles ran out of juice partway through, and she fell back onto the hay exhausted, but it's another great sign, on an all-around great day, that Mei Lan is progressing rapidly.
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

  Mei Lan is exploring her habitat and yawning

Saturday, January 6
Mei Lan continues to surprise everyone with the quickness of her development. After starting to get fairly mobile over the last few days, she has decided that it is time to start to crawl over things. If mom is not going to pay her any attention, she will just have to go to mom to get it. If you did not get a chance to see it on panda cam yesterday afternoon, the cub has learned how to crawl into adjacent dens. This is no small feat for her, since in the doorways there is an 8-inch tall cinder block that she has to crawl over. The nest box is only about 5 inches in height, which Mei Lan still periodically has trouble getting over. The doorway between the dens are smooth like the floor which give Mei Lan nothing to grip on to. She has to reach all the way over the cinder block to grip onto the other side. This adds about another 8 inches of stretch that she has to do, and it takes lots of front arm strength to pull herself up. Arm strength is what Mei Lan is going to need if she wants to start to climb in the next month.
J.T. Svoke
Giant Panda Keeper II

A not so quick escape  

Sunday, January 28
Over the last week we have seen 144 day-old Mei Lan become more aware of the world above her. We noticed her attempting to climb the mesh in her den area. She managed to get all four paws off the ground for less then a second and then she tumbled backwards. Also, as she walks up to tree trunks on exhibit, she looks upwards and seems curious as to where it may lead. Unfortunately, she has not managed to climb one yet. She does not seem to have enough strength in her legs to pull herself up, so as that develops, look for her to appear in the treetops over the next month or so.
Kate Roca
Giant Panda Keeper II

Saturday, February 3
He paused in the doorway, aware he wasn't alone in the dim, off-exhibit area. Too far away to get help if he needed it, and the only person in the building, his feelings of being hunted worsened. The beast was about...

Knowing it would use all of its powers to lull him into complacency before it attempted to attack, he cautiously scanned the area, looking for any signs of the unseen pursuer. Then he heard them; the careful padding of footsteps. Was he being stalked? Was the creature aware of his presence? Not knowing made him wonder just how much time he had left. He considered bolting for the door, but knew that would automatically trigger a chase response. Then a shadow appeared from behind a stout metal panel, and he froze, knowing now it was too late to do anything. He'd been spotted, and now just hoped he would survive.

The beast suddenly rushed from the shadows towards him, and he could see the glint of shiny, sharp teeth as she opened her muzzle, preparing to pounce. Suddenly, the mass of fur and claws reared up on her hind legs, and he opened his mouth to scream as she raised both sets of mighty claws to leap towards her hapless victim. And instead he burst into laughter as his little panda cub fell over backwards instead, not yet quite strong enough to follow through on a full pounce. Relieved and entertained, Mei Lan's keeper talked happily to his teeny black and white stalker, before leaving to go feed her always hungry and demanding mother.

***Yes folks, it really happened (with perhaps a trifle extra drama on my part). Mei Lan loves her caregivers, and now tries to stalk, pounce, and play on the other side of the bars. JUST when I thought she couldn't get any cuter...
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

  Who wouldn't want a smooch from Mei Lan?

Thursday, February 8
Mei Lan is growing! Even though I keep an eye on her throughout the week, it is not until she is in my hands that I can really appreciate the changes that she undergoes in 1 week. The brief health checks continue as we accumulate the information on her physical growth. It is always amazing to see the changes in her body weight and body growth measurements week-to-week. We closely monitor her reactions to the exam. So far, she is handling it very well with no signs of stress and the exams take approximately 5 minutes. As a healthy giant panda cub, she is developing more confidence in her physical abilities, such as walking and climbing. As I watched her in the dayroom this morning after the exam, she tried to run for a very short distance. She’s a bit awkward, but a lot of fun to watch!
Dr. Maria Crane
Vice President of Animal Health

Friday, February 16
Requiem for a Panda Keeper – A Drama in Two Acts
Our Hero: Beleaguered Panda Keeper
The Fickle Fates: Lun Lun and Yang Yang
The Cherubim: Mei Lan
Supporting Cast: Everyone else in the zoo
Open doors, shut off alarm. Check to see if everyone’s OK. Hi Yang, Hi Lun, How’s the baby girl?
Weigh the biscuits, weigh the fruit. Order bamboo, get ready to train.
Move the bears, weigh the bears (she’s grown! she’s grown! she’s 21 pounds now!).
Check the yards, check the hotwire. Drain the pool, scrub it clean.
Check the Dayroom, set it up. What will make our Mei Lan happy and stay put? Toys, toys, toys.
Weigh bamboo, carry it out. Spread it all around, shake it all about.
Toys for the big bears, something new. Change it every day, what to do…
Now the student’s here. Research with Yang Yang. Train him, reward him, then out to play!
Train momma Lun Lun, the little one too. Out you go, now, follow your mom.
What a good little girl she is.
No time to rest, now clean clean clean.
Pick up the bamboo, weight it out.
Pick the splinters and shards out of the mess. Weigh it out.
Pick up the poop. Weigh it out.
Now sweep sweep sweep, then roll out the hose.
Wash it all down, soap and scrub, soap and scrub.
Rinse it away, now it’s squeaky clean. Squeegee dry, and move to the next room.
Take out the trash, check on the bears. Mom’s hungry, dad’s hungry, baby’s in the tub.
Weigh bamboo, give ‘em the grub.
Don’t stop now, there’s research to do. Take the data, record the data, enter the data too.
Record the pandas’ info, each and every day.
Check the bears (pandacam on?), whew, they’re OK.
Watch Mei Lan and mommy play.
Now run around the building, to do the keeper talk.
He’s 300 lbs. She’s a good mommy. No we do not “pet” the cub.
They’re carnivores, they always have toys, yes she loves her tub.
Smooth floors stay clean, they choose where to go, and also what to do.
Thank you for your interest, and coming to the Zoo.
Run back before they all wake up, too late Lun Lun’s at the door.
Where’s my food I’m starving why oh why don’t you feed me more?
Shift the bears, clean the room, now weigh some more bamboo.
New toys, new food, now where’s Mei Lan?
She went off exhibit too…
Now Yang’s awake and making noise, so here we go again.
Once we’re done weigh it out, then another hike to the trash bin.
Check the bears (pandacam on?), YAY they’re happy!
Now to other chores.
Omigod it’s noon, I can take a break.
Fall into chair. Whew. Nap time.

Saturday, February 17
(Note: if you haven't yet read ACT 1 read Friday's update first.)
Get out of chair, re-caffeinate.
Check on pandacam.
They’re all awake and need more food, so off we go again.

Clean and weigh, put more out. Remove the chewed up toy.
Train Yang again: up, ear, eye, shift.
He can be such a good boy.
Move mom around, hope kid goes too. Geez what a mess they made.
Clean fast as you can, then out they go. A little two panda parade.
Weigh it out and down the hill, carrying trash again.
Now check emails, there’s more research?
I’ve got too much to do. Papers to write, updates and more.
Now interviews with CNN too?
ACK! They’re awake again. Always ready to eat.
ACK! Don’t poop in the pool, I just cleaned it out.
It’s 40 degrees, now I’ll freeze my wet feet.
Weigh clean feed, weigh clean feed.
Check Pandacam too. Now where did Mei Lan go?
By herself in the tiny shift hall, playing out of view.
Now we’ll get calls and emails about this, I know.
Your toys are right there, and in with mom too? Why can’t you go out to play?
It’s time to eat for you, you should be nursing anyway.
No time to rest, now set up the dens, to bring the bears inside.
Add food, add toys (pandacam still on?)
Come on in Lun, let’s get a weight. Now where’d your kid go hide?
Now daddy Yang’s turn, he’s ready to go, inside to his favourite place.
Now here’s the cub, off to her corner.
Ignore the toys, ignore the bed, off to her feel-safe space.
Clean the yards. Weigh it out, write all the data numbers down.
Sweep it all clean, check bamboo to order more tomorrow.

Now double check all locks, all bears secure.
No coming in to them wandering around.
Close up panda building. One more trip to the trash.
I’m so tired I think I might die.
Cell phone ringing. Hello? Go out tonight?
Are you nuts? There’s bamboo splinters in my thigh.
An early night, then tomorrow will be
Another day like today. I must be crazy, why do I DO this?
It’s certainly not for the pay.
But then we get to work, and the three pandas there
Are always happy to see us.
How’s my girl? How can you BE so darn cute? Are you a good mom?
And now there’s my big happy guy.
You’re excited to see me? Well I’m here for you.
And then I remember, THAT’S why.

End ACT 2
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

  Mei Lan, "The Indestructible"

Thursday, March 8
OK, I'll admit even we, the keepers, gasped and jumped a little yesterday. We were watching Panda Cam, Kate collecting data for research, and were zoomed in on Mei Lan. She was contentedly sleeping on the top horizontal logs of the climbing structure, when she rolled over in her sleep, and dropped right off the edge! Both Kate and I startled, and checked quickly on the cub. Mei Lan sat up, shook her head, and looked around. Lun Lun came over to her and checked her out, and both of them went off doing panda things again. Mei Lan truly is a sturdy little bear!
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

Saturday, March 31
One thing I can say about Mei Lan is that she doesn’t scare easily, and I should know. One would think she would be very cautious and hesitant about being in a new, larger environment. Mei Lan, however, is just the opposite. She has thrown caution to the wind upon entering her new outdoor world and started investigating every inch of the exhibit. She has been completely under and on top of the climbing structure. She has been on and through the wall of logs. She has been trying to climb every wall or tree she can find. This is what drew her to her first experience with the hot wire. When she hit it, though, one couldn’t tell. She simply climbed down and went on her merry way. The only panda really showing any concern about the new environment is Lun Lun who keeps a close eye on Mei Lan between chomps on bamboo culm. The one place that Mei Lan hasn’t been yet though is the moat. This is the first place we thought she would end up and I’m sure she will sooner or later, and when she does, I’m sure she won’t be rattled. She’ll just climb out utilizing our new baby proofing equipment in order to do everything over once more.
Kenn Harwood
Large Mammal Keeper III

Thursday, April 26
This morning Mei Lan had another first in the outside habitat, and she didn’t much care for it, so it seemed. During her morning tour of the habitat this morning, it started to rain lightly. You would have thought her name was Chicken Little yelling “the sky is falling!” based on how fast she ran to the doors wanting to be given access to her nice dry indoor dayroom. After checking that she wasn’t melting in the rain, we, of course, let her in, where she immediately climbed the structure and laid down. I imagine it will take some time for her to adjust to the rain and become just like mom and pop, who don’t mind the rain at all as long as the bamboo is plentiful and tasty. Becoming adjusted to new and sometimes frightening situations takes “baby steps”, and fortunately, she is very good at those.
Kenn Harwood
Large Mammal Keeper III

Mei Lan taking a play-break  

Saturday, April 28
This past week, Zoo Atlanta has entertained many visitors that have made the giant pandas a tremendous part of their lives. Online panda watchers and fans of our pandacam have been here in small groups, and I have been lucky enough to spend time with them, particularly members of Pandas Unlimited, one group in particular that has raised money specifically for panda well-being and enrichment at more than one zoo. As I talk to these energetic guests, I am struck by their dedication to the animals, their knowledge of their species AND individual life histories, and also their willingness to contribute however they can to giant panda conservation, the facilities that house the charismatic bears, and the animals and staff who care for them.

That one word is the root of it. Charismatic. I heard throughout my university career in zoology the term "charismatic megafauna", and was always intrigued by it. Essentially it addresses that the big, noticeable animals that people relate to the best become the focus of habitat and conservation efforts. This is not to say that every animal is not important, but human nature tends to gravitate towards the big and impressive, or the cute and fuzzy. Giant pandas are an excellent example of this, being among the most easily recognizable animals on the planet. So what about the birds? the frogs? the BUGS??? Well, luckily, the "megafauna" aspect works in our favor. It usually pertains to LARGE animals, which then in turn require LARGE reserves and protected conservation areas. What we see is an umbrella effect. If you save say, 100 square miles of forest for a few pandas, just think about how many of the smaller, more innocuous species of plants and animals are being protected at the same time. So people gravitate to big and photogenic, big deal. In the end it works out in all the wildlifes' favor.

And I have learned never to underestimate their charisma. I remember the huge smile on my mother's face, back in Canada when she first got to meet a hand-reared cheetah. The experience touched her forever. Then the little boy who knew me as "king cheetah man", whom I took time to teach about the big cats and their African home. His mom wrote me a letter months later telling me that he tries to learn all he can now. Now here in Atlanta, Mei Lan has affected a girl with a little-known disorder, and has made a huge, positive impact on her life. And I get to share my time and panda stories with excited, dedicated adults and children every day, (especially some of the giant panda watcher groups) and I know that these animals make a difference in many peoples' lives. It makes me smile.
Behold the power of pandas.
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

Sunday, May 13
Today is Lun Lun’s first Mother’s Day and she and Mei Lan are spending it just like every other day. They spent the morning outside in which Lun Lun enjoyed her morning bamboo while Mei Lan explored her habitat. During Mei Lan’s venture out she was trying to climb into the dry area of the pool, but she slipped and landed in the water. She did not stay and play, but instead quickly got out and continued her walk. But due to being wet from her dip in the pool she quickly became a dirt covered panda cub. Both she and Lun Lun then took their mid-morning naps. This was followed by a snack on bamboo for Lun Lun and a nursing session for Mei Lan. And as I write this update, they are enjoying an early afternoon play session. I am sure their day will continue on as any other, but as with all mothers, today is a great day to stop and reflect on just how wonderful they all are! We are continuously proud of our first time mom, Lun Lun. As I am sure you all are proud of your own mothers everyday of the year.
Happy Mother’s Day-mom!
Kate Roca
Giant Panda Keeper II

  What a goof!

Wednesday, May 23
You may have noticed that if Lun Lun is resting and Mei Lan is awake, she often climbs all over her mom biting her. This is typical giant panda cub behavior. Cubs often try to initiate play when their mothers are resting. This behavior is especially common in young males, who spend more time trying to initiate play than young females. One reason cubs playfully attack their mothers while they are resting may be because the cubs then have an opportunity to engage in some behaviors that might be more difficult to accomplish when their mothers are awake. For example, the cubs can more easily bite areas of the body that their mothers would defend while awake, like their paws, which is an area often targeted during giant panda play. Giant panda mothers do engage in self-handicapping while playing with cubs by lying prone during play sessions and moving more slowly. Nevertheless, the mothers are much larger, stronger, and more coordinated than their cubs, and so it might be advantageous for cubs to practice some play behaviors while their mothers are resting.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

Wednesday, June 6
Mei Lan is nine months old today! Giant panda cubs in the wild usually stay with their mothers for at least 18 months. So, Mei Lan is half way through the period a cub would normally stay with its mother. She’s gone through some big changes in the last nine months and she has more to come in the next nine months before she’d be ready to live without her mother. The biggest of these will be gradually transitioning from drinking her mother’s milk to eating bamboo. That transition has begun with her eating small amounts of solid food (e.g., biscuit and fruit pieces) occasionally. The major transition will occur when she is 12-13 months old and starts feeding on more and more bamboo, while subsequently nursing less and less.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Giant Panda Research and Management

Sunday, June 10
We saw the first signs of Mei Lan’s teeth on Oct 19, 2006 during one of her health checks. Then we noted that two of them had erupted on Nov. 22, 2006. Now, Mei Lan has 28 tiny teeth poking though her gum line. Pandas start off with deciduous or baby teeth.  She will have her full set of permanent teeth when she is about a year old. Once Mei Lan grows all of her adult teeth in, she will have a total of 38.
Kate Roca
Giant Panda Keeper II

Friday, June 22
Today's update is about beans. As in "full of." Like Mei Lan was this morning. She exhibits her mom's independent streak on occasion, going off on her own and playing by herself. Then there's those mornings, like today, where she takes after daddy Yang. When I was trying to shift the bears around this morning after working with Lun Lun on her study, Mei Lan suddenly started charging through the hall, full tilt, chasing after her mom. This lootrying to beat her to the door and close it, but to no avail. The little furball beat me through, and then appeared to regard me triumphantly before taking off in another direction. It was several minutes of this before she was herded into the end of the hallway, and then outside. This type of behavior is very much like her dad. And while it's super cute, it's a trifle frustrating when you're running behind in keeper work, and the cub is just being a goof.
Full of beans, I tell you.
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

Tackling a bamboo stalk...  

Monday, July 9
Mei Lan passed another milestone last week. On Friday, which happened to be her 10 month birthday, the keepers noticed that one of her lower canines was discolored. One of the zoo’s veterinarians, Sam Rivera, examined Mei Lan’s teeth and discovered that she has started to lose her deciduous (baby) teeth. She has already lost some of her incisors and the tips of her new permanent teeth are visible. The discolored tooth that the keepers noticed is turning brown because the new permanent tooth underneath has cut off the blood supply. Giant panda cubs typically have their full set of permanent teeth by the time they are about one year old. Consequently, they usually start to feed on bamboo at about 13-14 months of age.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Carnivores

Wednesday, August 1
One year ago, no one knew for sure quite what was going on. Lun Lun had been going through the motions of a pregnancy, but looked like she'd start eating again. Ultrasounds were "different", but we had nothing decisive. We were watching for any signs of whether to initiate a birth watch or call things a pseudopregnancy for another year. Well, we all know how THAT story ended. So now, approaching Mei Lan's one year birthday, I'm confronted with what is rapidly evolving from "cub" or "baby" to "BEAR."

And the little bear is developing quite the personality. She is very intrepid, and often journies into new areas without batting an eye. When we gave her access to the larger habitat for the first time last Friday, she marched right through the shift door like she owned the place. She is independent like her mom, and also exhibiting a stubborn side , like Lun is wont to do. But she also shows some of her dad's traits, which may be coincidental, since she's never with him, but some of the things she does are just SO goofy, and SO Yang Yang, that the panda guides and I agree there's some daddy in Atlanta Beauty. Case in point, Mei Lan and mom were out early this morning for a visit from the governor. Lun Lun wandered over to eat, and after I roused Mei Lan from a brief nap by calling her from the research deck, she climbed to the top of her structure, and promptly got hung up in the fork of the tree. One of my favourite pictures of Yang Yang is of him, butt in the air, dangling from the fork of a limb on his play structure. Seeing our little bear this morning in an almost identical pose, it's virtually impossible not to make the comparison...
Jay Pratte
Giant Panda Keeper III

  Mei enjoys her birthday "cake"

Thursday, September 6
Well, what can I say but HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEI LAN!!! It's been a very busy day here at Panda Central, and we've been doing our best to make this an awesome experience for Mei Lan, her parents, and all of the dignitaries here at the zoo. Of course, a party wouldn't be a party without you, our valued friends of the zoo and panda fans! We had cakes, sponsored by and served by our friends at Pandas Unlimited, and a new toy for Mei Lan from our sponsors Delta Airlines. There are people everywhere joining in the fun amidst traditional Chinese dancers and artists, as we're kicking off the Panda Art Festival as well.

Mei Lan is a little overwhelmed, and when presented with her new ball, checked it out, then went for a nap in her safe spot. Not long after a birthday lunch with mom though, she rolled around with the ball for a while, before zooming into the other dayroom to play with mom and her special birthday ice sculpture (scented with mouthwash, made by Kate). A long and busy day, with more treats and cakes to come later. Stay tuned on Pandacam to join in the fun.

And a special note. Thank you to Delta for their gift, and to all of you thoughtful panda folks for the wonderful cards and panda toys you sent in. We truly appreciate the thoughts and support. Special thanks to Pandas Unlimited for their ongoing friendship, and also to our special panda-friend Michelle and her mom Leanne who continue to raise funds for panda enrichment. And last but certainly not least, to FLOP and Doodlebugs for their generous contributions to make Mei Lan's first birthday the best seen anywhere!!!

And Mei Lan says thank you to her gramma for the birthday wish.

We couldn't do this without you all. Thank you from us, and have a great first birthday!

Jay Pratte
Carnivore Keeper III


Mei Lan, year 2 >