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Best of Mei Lan, Year 2

Friday, September 28
Mei Lan did something especially cute yesterday morning. On her way outside to join her mom, she picked up one of her jolly ball toys and carried it outside with her. We rarely give her balls outside, because they often end up in the moat and are then ignored. I guess Mei Lan decided she’d better take her toy with her if she wanted to play with it outside.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Carnivores

 
  Napping in the grass

Friday, October 5
I haven’t had the pleasure of working with the pandas for quite a while, so this is a treat for me today. I am amazed that in my short absence, Mei Lan has made leaps and bounds in her development. First of all, I remember her being about 45-50 pounds – not the whopping 62 pounds that she weighed this morning. Also, the last time I was here, she would play with fruit and biscuits, but she existed solely on Lun Lun’s milk. Oh, how times have changed. Today, I was actually able to hand her a couple of leaf eater biscuits and pieces of fruit. She took the food, assumed the panda eating position, and chowed down right in front of me. It almost brought a little tear to my eye. Our little baby is growing up! All of this was very exciting, but it wasn’t the best news that I discovered upon my return. Upon cleaning the dayroom last night, I came across a nice little gift left to me from Mei Lan. Being a keeper, I dove right in to examine it, only to discover many pieces of chewed bamboo inside. All of the estimates say that pandas will start to consume bamboo at around 13 months of age. She will be 13 months old tomorrow, so I would say that she is right on track with her development. I can’t wait to see what she will be doing the next time they allow me the pleasure of working with the pandas again.
Kenn Harwood
Large Mammal/Carnivore Keeper III

 
Some pandas are more keen to play leap
frog than others...
 

Monday, October 29
I thought that over the weekend we were going to lose one of the little juniper trees (at least, that’s what I’m calling it) in the outside habitat. If you are familiar with the exhibit, there is one badly-shaped one that is growing next to the large windows that look out from the “viewing hut.” Lun and Yang have always knocked into it, walked over it, pushed logs onto it but have somehow never managed to kill it yet. Needless to say, it is very flexible and misshapen from all the abuse. Mei Lan, though, got hold of it, and I would have bet money that it was the end. The way Mei has started tearing everything apart, biting and pulling at everything, I thought the tree was going to be snapped in half. But somehow that little tree came out victorious in the end and is still living. I’m sure that this is just the first of many attacks that Mei will lay upon the tree.

Just so everyone is aware, Lun Lun has decided that she is not going to learn Spanish. Just for fun, I asked her where her baby was, with the little Spanish I know. Of course, she stared at me like I was crazy and just wanted her biscuits. When asked if she knows any Spanish, she was quick to shake her head no. She does not want to have to learn a third language, I guess; she says that two is hard enough. Kate thinks I’m crazy, but it’s just a little humor on my part, I thought.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper II

Wednesday, October 31
Happy Halloween
Mei Lan got to meet a ghost for Halloween. The keepers made a frame of bamboo which they draped with a sheet to make a ghost toy for her. She initially ignored it because she was busy eating her mom’s leaf eater biscuits. When she did notice it, she was very interested in it. She played with it gently at first, but then wrestled vigorously with it for about ten minutes. The ghost looked a little worse for wear by the end.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Carnivores

 
  Did someone put caffeine in her bamboo?

Friday, November 30
Mei Lan has been very playful today. I’m sure that those of you watching PandaCam have enjoyed her antics as much as we have. When I first put the giant pandas out this morning, I wedged a horse ball in the climbing structure so that it would fall if one of them walked by it. I put it in the path that Mei Lan usually takes when climbing the structure. As expected, Mei bumped the ball as she passed it, and it fell to the ground. She reared up to pounce on it, but of course, she had to climb to the floor before she could get to it. She lumbered down the structure and attacked the ball, then rolled and batted the ball for a few minutes before picking it up by the handle and carrying it around. She wanted to take it up to her favorite spot on the climbing structure, but she couldn’t manage to carry the ball while climbing, and she dropped it. And the whole thing started over. She played like this for about half an hour. She grabbed the ball again this afternoon during another play bout, but this time she was more interested in tackling her mother than the ball.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper I

Friday, December 7
Mei Lan hit a new milestone today! When the opening keepers entered the area where Mei Lan's and Lun Lun's overnight den is located, Mei Lan climbed up the mesh and bleated. Mei Lan has made all sorts of vocalizations since her birth, but so far, we have not heard her bleat. Giant pandas use bleating as a friendly vocalization or a contact call to other pandas. Lun Lun and Yang Yang bleat quite often, usually to let us know they want more bamboo. Lun Lun also bleats to Mei Lan to encourage her to follow her.
Heather Baker Roberts
Keeper I, Carnivore Department

 
Growing up, upside down...  
   

Friday, December 14
In addition to nursing less, Mei Lan is showing more signs of growing up. Over the past week, she has been more active during the day. She is spending more time foraging, eating and playing than resting. Mei Lan is now up and ready to shift when we need to clean and provide fresh food for her and Lun Lun. Sometimes it seems as though she is eating all the time now! Just a couple of weeks ago, we had to wait for Mei Lan to wake up or try to coax her to move when it was feeding time. Since she is eating more bamboo, biscuits and fruit, she seems more motivated by these items and eagerly moves where we need her to go for a biscuit reward. As a result of eating more, she is continuing to gain weight. This morning, she tipped the scale at 33.4 kg (or 73.48 pounds). Also, her lower canine teeth have erupted and are growing in (Kate just wrote about those teeth falling out last month). She is certainly becoming a big girl!
Heather Baker Roberts
Keeper I, Carnivore Department

Friday, December 28
Yesterday Mei Lan reminded me very much of her mother when she was about the same age. Mei Lan was trying to climb onto a toy that is similar to a tire swing. Lun Lun and Yang Yang lived together at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding when they were a little over a year old. They had a tire swing in their exhibit that they played together on a lot. Almost every day, Yang Yang would climb the tree that suspended the swing and sleep in the tree for a few hours. Lun Lun often tried to climb up to the same spot to sleep, but she never figured out how to do it. She always tried to use the swing to climb the tree, and that never worked for her, whereas Yang Yang simply climbed up the trunk of the tree. Lun Lun was and is a good climber, but for some reason that particular tree was a big challenge for her. Now we have Lun Lun and Yang Yang combined into Mei Lan. Maybe she would be able to climb the tree using the swing!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Carnivores

   

 
  Lun and Mei getting their grub on!

Monday, January 7
Well, I thought that most of Mei Lan's growth milestones were done, but another occurred Friday evening when I was cleaning the yard. It was something that I had never thought of at first, but it’s actually an important step in her development. Mei had her first poop that was purely bamboo. In the past, there had been a mix of different contents (bamboo, fruits/vegetables and milk), depending on what she had eaten, but this time, it was all bamboo culm. This may seem like a rather gross milestone to some, but it’s still a milestone. All in all, this shows that Mei is growing up quickly and consuming much more bamboo, which is important for the weaning process to go smoothly.
Joseph T. Svoke
Giant Panda Keeper II, Carnivore Department

Monday, January 28
Mei Lan seems to have developed a very hearty appetite this past weekend. On Sunday, not only did we see her nurse two times during the day, but she seemed to spend a lot of time munching on bamboo. Her appetite also showed itself this morning, with seven piles of little panda poop for us to clean up. Today, Mei Lan started her morning off with some bamboo and biscuits, followed by a short nap. Later, when Lun Lun lay down to rest, Mei took an opportunity to nurse. She climbed down off the top of the structure, found Lun Lun and had a 21-minute nursing session. A growing girl needs all the nutrients she can get.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper II

 
Mei Lan, gets a breather  

Wednesday, February 20
Over the past several weeks, we have observed a sharp increase in the amount of bamboo consumed by Mei Lan. This is evident in the amount of time we observe her eating and also in the amount of fecal left behind from overnight. This trend puts her right on track to be where she should before she is weaned off of Lun Lun's milk.  Another trend that we see but is not talked about much is the location of fecal piles left from overnight while we clean in the morning. Because of Mei Lan's increase in size, we have been giving her and Lun access to a dayroom, as well as to their inside holding area overnight. When this started, we would see an even mix of Mei’s feces interspersed with Lun's. As time has drawn on, however, the piles have become much more isolated from one another. This was never more evident than yesterday, when in the dayroom, I found nine piles from Mei Lan and zero from Lun Lun. The exact opposite was seen in the inside dens. What this tells us is that Mei Lan is spending most of the overnight hours in the dayroom, while Lun Lun is spending time in the den. While the two still seem to enjoy each other’s company, it is evident to us that the natural separation of mother and cub has already started occurring. Over the next few weeks, we will gradually increase their time apart until they’re permanently independent of one another. We have written all along about Mei Lan's little milestones, but none will be as great as this one. Our little girl is almost “all growed up” now!
Kenn Harwood
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Wednesday, March 12
Lun Lun and Mei Lan are doing very well living as separate pandas. The weaning process went even more smoothly than we had hoped. Both of them have adjusted well and spend most of their time eating and sleeping, as pandas should. You will continue to see Mei Lan on panda cam, but we will also sometimes have Lun Lun or Yang Yang on panda cam.
This morning Yang Yang had his annual physical examination. He is anesthetized for this procedure. Then lots of measurements and information are collected. For example, his blood was collected, body measurements were made, an electrocardiogram (EKG) was done, and his teeth were cleaned and examined by a dentist. His semen was also collected. It will be frozen and possibly used for artificial insemination for Lun Lun or eventually sent to China to be used for artificial insemination of females in China. Yang Yang is in excellent health and the procedure went very well. He will be resting comfortably and quietly in the indoor dens today and will be back on exhibit tomorrow.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Carnivore

 
  Nothing fazes Mei when it comes to bamboo!

Wednesday, April 9
Mei Lan reached another marker in her life this past week – she has now crossed the 100-pound mark. Yesterday she weighed 46.8kg (103lbs). So I would say that she has done quite well in adjusting to her mainly bamboo diet (plus some yummy fruit, veggies and biscuits from her keepers) since being weaned. 

We have also started to see some small physical changes in Lun Lun that precede estrus, though her hormones are still at baseline. Yang Yang continues to locomote about his exhibit and scent mark to let Lun Lun know that he is in the area and looking for love.  It looks like we are on trac k for breeding season, though we are still at least a of couple weeks away.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper II

Wednesday, April 30
I’m not sure if Mei Lan had a late night party last night, but she sure was tired this morning. She was asleep in the tepee tree when I arrived at 7:00 a.m. and did not budge from that location until 11:30 a.m. Normally she is up at 7:30 and waiting at the door for her biscuits. My best guess is she had eaten an early morning snack sometime before I arrived and decided it was time for another nap. When she did wake up she climbed right out of her tree, got a drink of water, and proceeded to eat her biscuits and bamboo. I guess we all just need a little extra beauty rest from time to time.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper II

 
Pass the Yellow Groove!  

Wednesday, May 14
Hi, everyone!
It's a nice, overcast day today, and the temperature is hovering right around 68 degrees - perfect panda weather! Indeed, the last few days have been a welcome respite from the heat for all of us, bears included, and all concerned seem to be enjoying watching each other without being forced to utilize a refreshing personal fan.

Individually speaking, Mei is still hauling her little 50 kg self all over the place, obstacles notwithstanding. I never knew sliding down a log and into a hammock could be so much fun ...Yang is kicking back and eating (I know, big surprise!), although I think he may have taken up bird-watching – there was a robin outside today that clearly had no idea its every move was being tracked (at least for five seconds or so). And what can I say about Lun? Well, nothing new, in truth – she's the same silly girl as always.

Anyway, I suppose I ought to add that my name is Matt, and I'm that short, blue-hatted guy you've been seeing on the webcam periodically for the last couple of months. I'm usually working with our genuine meat-eating carnivores, but you'll see me over in Pandaland every so often now that my cross training is just about complete. Until next time!
Matt Fugate
Keeper II, Carnivore Department

Friday, June 6
As we all labored through this lovely Georgia heat, we were surprised today by our little Miss Mei Lan. In the morning we had her out in the yard closest to the building so she could have access anytime if she got too warm. To our surprise, she chose to spend most of her day basking, sleeping and eating in this hot and humid Georgia weather. She did come inside to snack for a bit, but then headed right back out without a care in the world. Such a silly girl, never failing to surprise us over and over again. Her parents have spent the entire day going back and forth between Henon and Yellow Groove, not deciding which they like better at which time. Sweet Mei is much more accommodating for us, pretty much eating whatever she is given.
Jennifer Brink
Keeper II, Carnivore Department

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