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Panda Cub Updates (December - October 2010)

Friday, December 31
While Lun Lun was waiting for her den to get cleaned today, I decided to give her one of her favorite treats, a frozen banana! At first she walked away from the cub to enjoy her banana in private, but half way through her frozen snack the cub started to get a little fussy. Being the good mom that she is, she stopped eating and walked to him right away. She picked him up and started to try to place him to nurse; however, she was unwilling to put down her banana! So she used her front left paw and back right foot to maneuver the cub into position while holding her treat with her front right paw. (This was pretty funny to watch!) Once he was in place, she felt free to finishes her well- deserved snack!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, December 29
On Tuesday, the daytime keepers reported that, for the first time, Lun Lun carried the cub into the den where we feed her. However, she did not feel comfortable with the cub in there and quickly took him back to the nest box. As we give Lun Lun access to more space, she will have to grow comfortable moving farther away from the cub for periods of time. I am interested to see what she does with this cub once she has access to the dayroom. With Mei Lan, Lun Lun was happy to leave her safely ensconced in the nest box while she ate her fill in the dayroom. It took Lun Lun a long time to feel at ease with Mei Lan spending time in the dayroom. On the contrary, with Xi Lan, Lun Lun must have felt he was safer with her and carried him out to the dayroom within a few days of going out there herself for the first time after his birth. At his age, it is unlikely that Lun Lun will want to move this cub from the dens yet, but then again, with Lun Lun, you just never know what she will do. She likes to keep us guessing!
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Monday, December 27
It’s only been a few days since I last saw the cub, and although I saw his weight and measurements from his most recent exam, I’m still surprised at how big he looks! Right now Lun is in the adjacent den eating, and the cub has turned himself about 360 degrees by wiggling around. Although the keepers tell me that he’s been a bit fussy lately, right now he’s resting quietly in the nest box.
While the cub was resting inside this morning, Yang Yang and Xi Lan got a taste of the great outdoors, including some snow. Yang rubbed the snow all over his body, like he does with some scents, and Xi Lan seemed genuinely perplexed by it. It did, however, give him the motivation to play. I wonder if our new little cub will enjoy snow as much as his older brother.
Thanks to everyone for their holiday wishes, cards and photos. All of us, including the pandas, appreciate being in your thoughts this holiday season.
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, December 24-Happy Holidays!
The cub had his usual vet check yesterday. He weighed 2.2 kg. From the tip of his nose to the base of his tail is 36 cm. His neck girth is 23 cm and his chest girth is 35.5 cm. He was calm and quiet during the exam. Lun Lun was calm and quiet as well. She spent the time eating as usual.
Yesterday, the keepers gave Lun Lun access to more space in the building. She spent some time wandering around and smelling a transfer area that leads to the other half of the building. Soon we will begin giving her access to a dayroom, so that she can get some exercise and a change of scenery. I imagine she is pretty tired of the same three dens she’s been in since October.
 
Christmas is a quiet day at the Zoo, because we’re closed. But a large number of keepers come in to care for the animals and they usually provide festive, holiday themed enrichment for the animals to celebrate the day. Sometimes we take advantage of the quiet. For example, four years ago, we put Mei Lan into the dayroom for the first time on Christmas day, so that she could start getting used to it before her public debut. This cub is too young for that. So, it will be a regular day for him. But he has an exciting year ahead of him!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, December 22
Since the cub is growing and does not need Lun Lun to hold him constantly, she sometimes sleeps away from him. This could entail just turning away from the cub without leaving the nest box or leaving the nest box entirely to lie down on the other side of the den. Recently, she has also occasionally slept in the adjacent den. She is never too far away and does not spend long sleeping away from him. This change in behavior is completely normal for a mother panda with a cub this age. The cub usually rests quietly or does his exercises (i.e., pushing his chest up with his front legs) while Lun Lun is away. However, despite Lun Lun’s latest step towards independence, she still seems to prefer sleeping with her cub.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Monday, December 20
Our little cub is growing quickly, but so is his big brother, Xi Lan. Xi Lan’s current weight range is 55 to 59 kg. He is also noticeably longer and taller. After a leisurely summer he has hit a growth spurt. When the cool weather hits, panda appetites increase. The pandas come out of their sleepy summer lethargy and eat, and eat, and eat. Both Xi Lan and Yang Yang are tucking into their bamboo with vigor. This is reflected in their evening weights which are significantly higher than their morning weights. Xi Lan is 2-3 kg heavier in the evening and Yang Yang is 5-10 kg heavier. Lun Lun also has her full appetite back and is eating with her usual gusto.
 
Given the cub is doing so well and life is returning to normal for the giant pandas and keepers, we will revert to our previous schedule of providing updates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday starting this week.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Saturday, December 18
During the vet check on Thursday, I was able to see the cub up close for the first time. For the previous exams, I stayed with Lun Lun to make sure she was okay while her cub was away. It's always surprising to me how much bigger giant panda cubs appear in human hands compared to when they are with their mothers. He is still very small compared to Lun Lun, but when the vet is holding him he looks much bigger. His fur has become much thicker and looks fuzzy now. It will continue to grow longer and more wooly over the next several weeks. He was quiet and calm during the exam, but he did lunge forward on the table once. He will likely do more of this when he can see better. As he gets bigger, he might be more vocal and feisty during exams. His older siblings did. Lun Lun was very calm while he was away. I'm not even sure she realized he was gone. She used the time to have a big meal. She went right to him when we opened the door between the dens, picked him up, licked him, and then they had a nap.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD.
Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, December 17
On Thursday, the cub had his weekly physical exam by the vet staff.  He weighs 1748 grams, which is a 28% increase in body weight from last week!  His other measurements are as follows: Tip of nose to tip of tail: 42.5 cm.; tail length: 5.5 cm.; neck girth: 23 cm.; chest girth: 32.5 cm.; abdominal girth: 36 cm. The cub is growing so quickly! Before we know it, both eyes will be open and he will be trying to crawl out of the nest box.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Wednesday, December 15
We all know that Xi Lan is a superstar, but did you know that he is also a star pupil? Indeed, he is! And to prove it, he allowed vet tech, Sharon to draw his blood last Thursday. Sharon and I were so excited and proud of Xi Lan! We were able to get blood on the first try! Xi Lan stayed focused on me and did not react to the needle stick this time and held his position without moving for us to get enough blood for testing. Even after Sharon extracted the needle, Xi Lan kept his forearm in the blood draw sleeve. He got lots of rewards from both Sharon and me, during and after the training session. We will continue working with Xi Lan often so that he does not forget the behavior. This behavior is important because it allows our vet staff to check the pandas’ health without sedating them. Yang Yang, Lun Lun, Mei Lan and now Xi Lan have all mastered the blood draw behavior. In a couple of years, I am sure one of us will be bragging about our new cub once he also learns this valuable behavior.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Tuesday, December 14
Lun Lun continues to spend more time away from the cub, not only to eat but also to rest. This evening Lun sat up without the cub, then rested against the nestbox.  The cub was cute. As soon as he realized that Lun wasn’t there, he started to vocalize and wiggle his way to his mother. I was mentally joking to myself that he was saying “mom, mom, come back, mom, mom, where are you I need you” as he edged ever closer to her.  He probably moved about two body lengths to get there, and may have slightly startled Lun. She seemed surprised that the cub was touching her on her rump, but willingly turned around to take care of his needs. After he was settled, Lun went off to get some bamboo.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, December 13
Because it was so chilly this morning, I had the luxury of collecting data on Yang Yang from inside the building (he was in one of the dayrooms). As an added bonus, while I collected data, I also got to watch the cub for an hour. For the first few minutes Lun rested with the cub on her forearm, which gave me a great view of him. Soon, though, Lun went into the adjacent den to eat and left the cub to rest by himself in the nest box. He was quiet the entire time, but certainly wasn’t still. As the keepers have reported, he’s doing a lot of stretching and flexing, so when the time his right, he can begin scooting across the floor with purpose. I find that giant panda cubs are most entertaining once they begin to walk, but there’s something nice about this stage, too. It’s similar to the stage that human infants go through before they learn to crawl. Just like with human parents and infants, it’s easier now for Lun, because the cub can’t go too far too quickly. Once he becomes mobile, Lun will have more to keep track of as he begins to test his environment. 
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Sunday, December 12
There has been nothing too exciting to report in the last few days that I have seen.  I am sure it was mentioned in years past, but I often hope that either Lun or the cub does something to give me a good update.  Well, I have been waiting but neither wants to cooperate for my benefit.  Lun continues to eat well, as noted by her eating over 5.5 kg of bamboo last night.  This number will continue to increase as she spends more time away. She typically can be relied on to eat 7-8 kg, if not more, if she likes the bamboo.  The cub is still typically quiet, while Lun is eating. Unless he is on his back.  There are guaranteed to be some loud vocalizations if that occurs. Hopefully by my next update, Lun or the cub will give me a good idea to write about.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Saturday, December 11
Lun Lun is starting to spend significantly more time away from her cub. She sometimes spends this time away eating as has been described in previous updates. But in the last few days she has also spent some of her time away resting. This is normal behavior. Lun Lun did this with her other cubs at around the same age. Wild giant pandas mothers have to spend time away from their cubs traveling to bamboo feeding sites and consuming bamboo. Lun Lun only has to travel a few feet to reach her bamboo, but she still spends time away. The cub doesn't need her to stay warm anymore and he is normally quiet while she is away. I think it is good for him to have this time alone, because it's normal for giant panda cubs to be alone for increasingly longer stretches of time. In the next couple of weeks, I expect Lun Lun to start to become a little restless about being confined to two dens. Then we know it's time to give her more space. We start by giving her access to another den farther away from the cub. Then we begin giving her access to one of the indoor exhibit rooms. Lun Lun will gradually increase the amount of time she spends away from her cub, but she will still check on him regularly and continue to keep him clean and well-fed.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals


Friday, December 10
On Thursday, the cub was 36 days old and he received his weekly physical exam. Vet staff noted that his right eye is beginning to open! Kris and I were just talking about this last night, and he is right on schedule. His measurements are as follows:  Weight: 1364 g.; Tip of nose to tip of tail: 39.5 cm.; tail length: 6.5 cm.; neck girth: 21 cm.; chest girth: 29 cm.; abdominal girth: 32 cm. (his belly is as round as his body is long!).
At the same age of 36 days, Mei Lan weighed (a whopping!) 1726.4 g., but her other measurements were very similar to this cub. Xi Lan weighed 1368 g. at 36 days, but we do not have measurements for him at a similar age. Some variation in weight and body measurements is normal for giant panda cubs, just as it is for other animals. This cub is growing steadily, hitting milestones on time, and best of all is healthy, like his older siblings.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Thursday, December 9
Today is the day of the next cub exam! Most panda cubs partially open their eyes at just over one month of age. Our little boy cub is now within this time frame, so eye opening is the next milestone to be excited about. After his eyes begin to open, they will likely be fully opened within two weeks. So far I haven't seen any sign of him attempting to spread those lids, but it could be any day now. It seems that he is growing so fast every time I see him. I'm ready for him to open those eyes and see the world for the first time!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper
 
Wednesday, December 8
Since Lun Lun and the cub are doing so well and there is nothing new to report today, I hope no one minds if I use this update to talk about the cub’s big brother, Xi Lan.  I have previously mentioned that I am training Xi Lan for voluntary blood draws. Last week, one of the Zoo’s vet techs, Sharon, and I worked with Xi Lan by actually inserting a needle into his forearm. He was not thrilled by this and gave Sharon the evil eye when she did it, but he held his arm still, at least initially. We quickly found out that Xi Lan takes after Yang Yang – his blood flows slowly. Xi Lan did not want to hold as long as we needed him to for his blood to reach the syringe connected to the butterfly needle. We tried a few more times because Xi Lan was eager to continue training, but were not successful in collecting blood.  He presented his arm and held the position nicely, but just not quite long enough yet. This training is done through a barrier using positive reinforcement. Xi Lan is able to choose whether he wants to participate or not. He can walk away at any point in the session. The only consequence is that he does not receive the food treats used for reinforcement at that time. But he does receive that food later in the day. We will continue to work with him, so stay tuned for further updates on Xi Lan’s training!
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Tuesday, December 7
The cub has been on the move, well at least somewhat.Last night, I was able to see him wiggle his way around, trying to get his feet beneath him. Twice while Lun was away he was like a little worm. He moved at least one body length the first time, and then over two body lengths a second time. He may have been on the hunt for his mother. Another time, when Lun had rolled away from him, he squirmed towards her until he was able to touch her. Lun seemed unaffected by this.The cub was quiet, and so there was no need for her to be alarmed. He is just working those muscles, so that they get big and strong to pester his mother in a few months.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, December 6
Lun Lun has always had a strong appetite. She is notorious for going all day eating instead of napping like the boys. Tonight is proof that that hunger is back. While the baby boy is sleeping away, Lun has felt free to leave him for 30 to 40 minutes to sit in the adjacent den to eat. The little cub is comfortable resting quietly in the hay, occasionally wiggling around. This time apart is important for both cub and Lun because it’s when he can learn to be more independent (exercising those little legs!). And she gets some much needed meal time!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper
 
Sunday, December 5
In the last two days, Lun has had some very long feeding sessions.  Up until then, a good session consisted of about only 10 minutes, and then she would head back to the cub.  She always seemed a little anxious while eating, so this probably hampered her eating for longer periods of time.  The last two days, though, she has had multiple sessions over 25 minutes, and a few were close to 45 minutes.  Her appetite must be coming back full force now.  Luckily the cub has been quiet while she is away the majority of the time.  If he happens to vocalize, Lun seems basically unconcerned, though she will take some glances at him from time to time.  These sessions were probably also longer due to the fact that she must eat bamboo before she gets any of her biscuits, and then they get tossed into the den where she must find them.  This is all good to see, as the more that she eats, the more milk that she can produce.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Saturday, December 4
Now that Lun Lun is leaving her cub uncovered more, it is much easier to see nursing. Yesterday I watched the cub nurse twice. When he is latched on, Lun Lun remains still so that he isn't dislodged. She sits quietly or rests and sometimes she gently licks him while he nurses. It's very peaceful to watch. Sometimes the cub will just nurse from one nipple other times he will nurse from two or three. When he gets older it will be normal for him to move around a lot in a nursing bout and nurse from all four nipples more than once in a session. Lun Lun is very good at helping him get in the right position when he's searching for a nipple too. It's really nice to see what a good mother she is.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals 
 
Friday, December 3
Today the cub is 1 month old! Yesterday, he received his weekly physical exam. He is very healthy. He weighs 1064 g. From the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail he is 35 cm; tail length is 6 cm; neck girth is 17.5 cm; chest girth is 25.5 cm; abdominal girth is 27.5 cm. To see how much the cub has grown, go to the
Friday, November 26 update.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
Carnivore Keeper II
Thursday, December 2
While looking through the pictures that have been taken of the cub, Heather and I noticed how much he is already starting to resemble Yang Yang. People always ask how we are able to tell the pandas apart. Well, the truth is to us they all have very different features. Mei Lan looked just like a miniature Lun Lun, whereas Xi Lan has his mother’s fluffy cheeks and his father’s big ears. The new baby cub has a wide bridge of his nose just like Yang Yang, and as he gets older, I’m sure other similarities will become more pronounced. They all make up the cutest fuzzy family I have ever seen!
The cub has his latest exam this morning; keep checking back to see how much our little man has grown!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper
 
Wednesday, December 1
The cub is becoming more active each day. When Lun Lun leaves him alone, he wiggles and stretches and exercises his muscles. He works one back leg as if to scratch himself or he manages to turn himself around on the floor.  Most importantly, he can right himself when he ends up on his back.  Just last week, if he accidentally rolled onto his back while Lun Lun was away, he was very unhappy – flailing his legs in the air and squawking loudly until Lun Lun rushed back and picked him up. He was like a stranded tortoise! But now he has developed enough muscle strength to roll himself over onto his stomach fairly quickly when he is supine. I am actually surprised he can roll over at all since his belly is so fat, but I have seen him do it several times in recent days. This is a big step for the little guy!
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
Tuesday, November 30
Sometimes I wish that there was a way to take photos from overhead in Lun Lun’s den. I see some of the cutest and most perfect situations from that angle, but unfortunately there is no camera to take photos from there. With the cub getting older and larger, Lun is exposing him much more, and I can see him a lot when they are both lying down resting. The other night it was the perfect pose; they had their noses right next to each other as if they were giving “Eskimo kisses.” The angles that we have to work with to take pictures aren’t always the best to get a clear shot of both, but you work with what you have. We still get some great photos periodically, though, so all hope is not lost. It is too dark anyway at night to take photos. So, I guess often during my shift that it would not matter anyway. 
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, November 29
Over the last few nights, Lun Lun has bleated quite often. These vocalizations are not random, though, but occur at particular times. Most often she will bleat after she is done eating and returning to her cub from a separate den. Lun Lun will also bleat if she is about to pick the cub up off the ground. Is this a sign that the cub’s ears are opening up and he is hearing noises for the first time? There are numerous cases in nature in which the offspring can recognize its mother’s unique call and vice-versa. So, is Lun “teaching” the cub the sound of her voice? It would be good for the cub to know when it is mom coming back, and not some sort of threat. This is just my speculation and we may never know if this is the case, but it is interesting that right now she only vocalizes at these times. 
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Saturday, November 27
The cub has a full coat of very short hair now. He also still has some of the long, fuzzy, sparse, white hair that he was born with. But under this is his new coat of black and white hair. His new coat will grow longer and thicker over the next couple of months, until it is like the dense, wooly coat of his parents. For now, his hair parts down the middle of his back, which I think is very cute. But it will only last a couple of weeks. The new hair is already helping to keep him warm and is a sign that Lun Lun will soon be able to spend more time away from him. He looks like a miniature adult giant panda now, and this is the beginning of the irresistible good looks that will last his whole life.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, November 26
On Wednesday, the cub was 21 days old and the veterinarians gave him another physical examination. He is healthy and growing steadily. His latest measurements are:  weight: 714 g.; tip of nose to tip of tail: 33.5 cm; tail length: 7 cm; neck girth: 16.5 cm; chest girth: 23 cm; abdominal girth: 27 cm. For comparison, last week’s measurements can be found in the Friday, November 19 update. I looked back in our records to compare this cub to both Mei Lan and Xi Lan at similar ages. At 19 days, Mei Lan’s measurements were: weight: 671.6 g; tip of nose to tip of tail: 33 cm; tail length: 7 cm; neck girth: 16 cm; chest girth: 22 cm; abdominal girth: 24 cm. Also at 19 days, Xi Lan’s measurements were:  weight: 544.8 g; tip of nose to tip of tail: 29.2 cm; tail length: 5.7 cm; neck girth: 13.7 cm; chest girth: 19.8 cm; abdominal girth: 23.3 cm.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Thursday, November 25
Happy Thanksgiving! The cub looks like he had a big meal. He is very plump, which is exactly what we like to see. He had a quick veterinary exam yesterday. The exam confirmed that he is in excellent health and is clearly thriving. He weighed 714 g. He is 25 cm long and his chest girth is 23 cm. His tail is now 7 cm long. 
 
Lun Lun is an old pro at mothering now. She and the cub seem relaxed and content - the perfect mood for Thanksgiving.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, November 24
Since Lun Lun has been reliably leaving the cub to eat, I decided to try to weigh her on Saturday morning. The last time Lun Lun stepped on the scale for us was on October 30; at that time, she weighed 97.2 kg. Lun Lun usually weighs in around 100-106 kg, depending on how full her digestive tract is at the time of weighing. As we have mentioned previously, giant panda mothers will seclude themselves in a den and stop eating prior to giving birth and for a few days to three weeks after. So, a decrease in weight is typical and expected. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much weight Lun Lun has put on in just three weeks after giving birth. She is now up to 101 kg, which is within the range of her normal weight.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Tuesday, November 23
Heather and I were talking the other night, during a shift change, about the cub’s nursing, which inspired this update. With the last two cubs, we could typically hear particular noises when the cub was nursing, but not with this one. Normally, these sounds were either of suckling or of what sounded like swallowing. Not this one, he characteristically is quiet.  This becomes a challenge sometimes to confirm nursing as Lun is hiding the cub from view. If the cub is partially visible, we have to rely on the cub’s body movements, swallowing, as well as paying attention to what Lun is doing.  Depending on her position, she won’t move until the cub is finished, and some of these positions don’t look like they would be comfortable for an extended period of time. Luckily with the cub growing, it is much more difficult for Lun to block our view. So, it is getting easier for us to see actual nursing.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
Monday, November 22
Lun and cub are sleeping now. Mom is lying on her side with the cub tucked under her arm like a little teddy bear. It’s amazing that one day this tiny cub could be as big as Yang Yang. This cub is definitely working on growing with how much he is nursing. It seems like every time I come back from my weekend he has grown!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper
 
Sunday, November 21
I hope tonight will be a quiet one for me, though it never seems that way when I am here. When arriving on shift, we always try to communicate what has been going on the shift before. I always seem to hear that Lun and the cub were good and sleeping most of the time. That is normally the opposite of what I seem to experience. I might get some resting from the two of them, but that only last about 20 minutes on average. Either Lun does something to disturb the cub, or the cub is upset over something. Then it takes them a while to settle back down. It also never fails that if I start to work on a project, one starts the cycle all over again. I couldn't even get through writing this update without being interrupted by them. I'm looking forward to the days when the cub can self-regulate its body temperature and Lun is eating normally again. Then hopefully things will be a little quieter.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Saturday, November 20
This morning Lun Lun kept me very busy.  She left the cub several times to eat and drink, and also to urinate and defecate in the adjacent den.  Heather provided Lun with yellow groove bamboo last night and it wasn't a huge hit.  This morning I had the same experience, so after I cleaned up the den, I removed all of the yellow groove and gave her black bamboo instead.  Getting her to eat biscuits and fruit is no problem, but she's less interested in bamboo right now.  I had several species to try throughout the day, so today's mission was to find one that she likes.
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, November 19
During yesterday’s exam of the cub, the vets weighed him and took body measurements. From the tip of his nose, to the tip of his tail, the cub is 30.7 cm long (his tail constitutes 5.7 cm of the total length!). His nose is 2 cm wide. Neck girth is 13.8 cm, chest girth is 19.5 cm and abdominal girth is 21 cm. He weighs 486 grams. Scroll down to the Saturday, November 13, update to see how much he has grown in just 6 days.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Thursday, November 18
Lun Lun and the cub got plenty of sleep last night, which is good because they had a big morning ahead of them. CBS’s Early Morning show taped a live cub exam this morning and announced the sex – it’s a boy!
 
While the vet staff tended to the cub during the exam, the keepers tended to Lun, making sure that she was stress-free and eating while the cub was away. I’m so excited to have watched the sex of the cub be announced, because it’s been such a hard secret to keep!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals
 
Wednesday, November 17
The cub continues to grow every day. When I returned from my weekend on Tuesday, I could not believe how big the cub had gotten in just two days! The dark areas of the cub’s body have gotten even darker and the fine white fur has gotten even fuzzier. The cub’s belly is rounder than ever! My favorite part of all mammal babies is their healthy, round, full bellies. Every time the cub is visible I look at its tummy and I know it is getting plenty of milk and care from Lun Lun, which is why it is growing so quickly. 
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Tuesday, November 16
Last evening Lun did something interesting, when she bleated once as she was heading back to the cub after eating a little food. This was interesting because I haven’t heard Lun vocalize in probably over a month (except for the footage of the birth). Normally this type of vocalization is an affiliative sound between two pandas, but Lun and Yang also do it to try to get our attention when they want food. It was odd that Lun made this vocalization when she was headed back to the cub. Was she trying to tell her little one that she was coming, since it was vocalizing the whole time that she was away? Or was she just mad at me for not giving her all the biscuits that she wanted, and was telling me her frustrations? Who really knows what Lun is and was thinking at the time, but I am sure that she had her reasons.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, November 15
Lun Lun’s food consumption is beginning to return to normal. The last two days she ate her normal daily amount of biscuits. Prior to this, she hadn’t done that since October 21. She is also eating bamboo pretty well, but in smaller amounts than normal. It takes a lot of time to process and consume bamboo and Lun Lun doesn’t have time, yet, to consume her normal amount of bamboo. That will change gradually as the cub matures. For now, Lun Lun is eating a normal amount of food for a mother with a young cub and she continues to take great care of her cub.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Sunday, November 14 (Happy Birthday Zoo Atlanta Webmaster)
The cub's coloration continues to change with every day. The black areas are getting darker than they were before, and at present you can really see the back legs changing. The skin turns dark first. Now we just have to wait for the fur to really start to grow in. I have been able to get some good looks at the cub the last two nights as Lun Lun is leaving it to go eat in an adjacent den more regularly. The cub is not 100% okay with this quite yet, but if Lun feels that it needs something, she does not hesitate to head right back. That just shows how good of a mother she is, as she will give up eating for the sake of the cub's happiness. If Lun is eating, though, I try to sneak a peek at the cub to see any changes going on, and that is how I really noticed the change in coloration.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Saturday, November 13
Because Lun Lun has been leaving the cub regularly, we were able to do a quick health check on the cub on Friday.  Lun Lun was closed in the adjacent den while the cub was removed, quickly weighed and measured.  The cub is in excellent health.  Its weight is 297 grams. Its chest girth is 17 cm. Its total length was not measured, but its head is 4.5 cm long and its tail is an amazing 5 cm in length.  Lun Lun did well while the cub was away.  She ate some sugarcane and biscuits, but she was eager to return to her cub.  She picked it up right away and licked it for a few minutes.  Then she and the cub settled down for a nap.
The cub's sex will be announced late next week - stay tuned for exciting details!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, November 12
For the past two days, we have given Lun Lun access to an adjacent den. She is curious about the new available space and has left the cub briefly a few times to look around it.  We also put her bamboo and biscuits in this den and she has gone over there to eat and drink. We saw the cub often on Thursday evening since Lun Lun is not holding it as tightly. The cub is starting to look fuzzy and its eyes, ears, front legs, and saddle look darker than they did just yesterday. 
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Thursday, November 11
Lun Lun left her cub a few times last night to drink and eat. This morning she left the cub and ate the largest quantity of leafeater biscuits she has eaten since she gave birth. This is all normal and it’s a good sign that Lun Lun is feeling well. She will gradually spend more and more time away from the cub in the coming weeks, so that she can eat and spend time resting. Sometimes when Lun Lun leaves the cub, it is quiet. Other times it vocalizes loudly and she returns to it quickly. At this point, the cub still relies on Lun Lun to keep it warm and it is likely vocalizing when she leaves because it feels cold. Everyday its coat grows and becomes thicker, and in a couple of weeks it won’t need its mother to keep it warm. Then Lun Lun will be able to spend more time away. But she is a vigilant mother and will return to her cub if it calls and just to check on it regularly.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
 
Wednesday, November 10
It has been a big day for Lun Lun and her cub. Lun Lun left the cub twice today very briefly (no more than 60 seconds) and the cub remained alert and wiggly, but quiet. Until today, the very few times Lun Lun has put the cub on the floor, it has vocalized very loudly and Lun Lun returned immediately to calm the cub. The fact that the cub remained relaxed during Lun Lun’s brief absence is a good sign that it feels comfortable for “Mom” to be gone for short periods of time. If the cub is comfortable with Lun Lun leaving, Lun Lun will be more likely to put the cub down more regularly to eat and drink. While the cub was on the floor of the nest box, I could see that not only have its eyes and ears darkened, its shoulders, saddle and front legs are starting to turn dark as well. The cub looked round and robust!
 
Lun Lun is continuing to take small amounts of water, sugarcane, fruit and biscuits from us opportunistically, but she is still not ready to leave the cub long enough for a full meal. However, Lun Lun’s and the cub’s behavior today let us know that it will not be long before that happens.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Tuesday, November 9
It’s getting harder for Lun to keep the cub totally hidden.  This is a good sign, because it’s an indication that the cub is growing, and it also allows us to better observe what both of them are doing.  Lun still keeps the cub close to her body or on her arms, to keep it warm, but there seems to be something sticking out more often.  Normally we just get to see the tail and the hind feet; every once in a while the head will pop out.  It is fun to see the bottom of the cub’s paw.  You can start to tell where the pads are going to be, as well as see its claws.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, November 8
Lun Lun and her cub continue to do well. This morning Lun Lun left her cub very briefly. She walked over to the where her food and water are, but didn’t eat or drink and quickly returned to the cub. She has been drinking water that the keepers offer through the bars near her nest box and she has eaten some sugar cane offered there as well. Soon she will start leaving the cub briefly to eat and drink. Leaving the cub this morning might be a sign that she will leave it again later today.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Friday, November 5
Lun Lun's new cub is thriving due to her superb mothering skills. I have gotten several good looks at the cub and it is moving well, has a fat tummy, and a healthy set of lungs! All of the nursery keepers have observed the cub nursing and its round belly is evidence of this.  Lun Lun has not eaten since the afternoon before her labor began and the last time she drank was during her labor. This is normal. Wild giant panda mothers do not leave their cubs for at least a few days after the birth and one mother did not leave her cub for three weeks after giving birth. This is astounding given that giant pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo, and thus do not build up significant fat stores. This is just one more example of how interesting giant panda behavior and physiology is. It is normal for captive females to refrain from eating and drinking after birth too, even though food and water are only a few feet away. However, tonight Lun Lun was leaning with her back against the wall close to one set of the vertical bars and I was able to safely offer her a small tub of water through the bars.  She was able to lean over and drink without putting the cub down. She drank the entire amount and wanted more, so I filled the tub again and she drank all of that as well. Although it is normal for her to refrain from eating, drinking or eliminating for several days after giving birth, keeping hydrated will help her to stay healthy and continue to provide excellent care to her baby.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Thursday, November 4
It's 2:00 a.m. Thursday morning and Lun Lun's new cub has been with us for nearly a day now. Lun Lun is doing a great job. The cub sounds good and looks good. It's a nice bright pink color and appears strong. Lun Lun is keeping the cub warm and clean. Giant panda cubs cannot maintain their body temperature until 3-4 weeks after birth, and so it is critical that the mother keep the cub warm by holding it in her arms close to her chest. The mother also breathes heavily into the area where the cub is nestled, which provides the right level of humidity. Like other neonate carnivores, giant pandas need to be stimulated by the mother to urinate and defecate. The mother does this by licking the cub. She then ingests the waste. Sounds disgusting to us, but it's normal for them and it keeps the den clean. Lun Lun is a pro at all this now and it's nice to sit back and watch her handle her tiny baby so expertly. That baby will grow quickly and we look forward to sharing all the exciting milestones to come!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Monday, November 1
She is no slot machine anymore. Lun’s typical behavior of quickly eating multiple items at one time just is not happening, but then again we expected that as we got closer to her due date. She has slowly declined in her willingness to eat biscuits or fruit over the last two weeks. At this point were we are lucky to get something into her during the ultrasound session and maybe one or two more times the rest of the day. Over the last two nights, she has basically refused to eat any fruit from me. The only way that she will eat biscuits is if I give her some sugarcane first. Before Xi Lan was born, and during the ultrasound sessions, she would only take sugarcane from us for about three days before she gave birth to him. Now, after enjoying the sugarcane, she may take a biscuit but eats it very slowly. If I try two at a time, she must remove one from her mouth and hold onto it before finishing the other. If bamboo is nearby, she will eat some of it.
 
What is really unusual is a position that she has gotten into during feeding; it actually reminded me of Mei Lan. Mei, while eating, would typically lie completely on her back with her head propped up. This is what Lun has started doing.  While at the door, she will allow herself to sink all the way down until she only has her head propped against the wall. Lun does not initially start off that way, but about halfway through, down she goes. I guess that trying to eat takes too much energy for her now!
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Friday, October 29
I’m sleeping with my phone next to the bed. We are expecting Lun Lun to go into labor anytime now. The latest hormone results show that her progesterone is declining and nearing baseline. We expect a birth when progesterone is near or at baseline levels. She is still cooperating well with ultrasound sessions. Yesterday, the fetus measured 7.9 cm in length. The heartbeat is strong and regular and the tiny toes are now visible. Lun Lun is still spending most of her time sleeping, but she has also been getting up mostly at night to eat bamboo. This year she’s been doing more nest building than in previous years. She has been shredding bamboo to add to the hay we provide in her nest box. We are eagerly awaiting this cub, as I’m sure all of you are too. Keep checking the website, because I expect there will be an announcement in the next few days. I hope it’s that Lun Lun has a healthy cub and all is well.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, October 27
We have been extremely fortunate to have Lun Lun continue to cooperate with ultrasound sessions. The fetus is growing rapidly and has a strong heartbeat. This morning the fetus measured 6.99 cm in length. Lun Lun is still spending most of her time sleeping, which is completely normal.
 
For Yang Yang and Xi Lan, life continues as normal. They have likely noticed a few changes in the building, like keepers being there all the time, but we try to keep the routine the same for them. I don’t think they have any idea that an exciting new arrival is expected soon.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Monday, October 25
Zoo Atlanta was rather busy this weekend with Boo at the Zoo and many of Lun Lun’s fans stopping by to see how she has been doing. Lun Lun is off exhibit, but we are showing her on PandaCam during the regular 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours on the weekdays. You will most likely catch her sleeping in the corner of her den or, if you’re lucky, building a nest with hay and bamboo in her nest box for her bundle-to- be. While cleaning and raking out the habitats throughout the day for our Y chromosome pandas, we are always vigilant about keeping things quiet for Lun Lun. This applies throughout the entire building as well.
 
I can’t forget about Xi Lan and Yang Yang! This weekend for Boo at the Zoo, the boys got pumpkins to play with. I put Xi Lan’s pumpkin on the top of his climbing structure yesterday in Habitat 1. It was so cute seeing him stand up on his bear tippy toes and sniff the odd orange ball. Then he just knocked it over and it landed on the ground. Splat!! That was about the extent of his pumpkin fun. Be sure to come out next weekend to see our bears enjoy another round of pumpkins. This time the pumpkins will be cut open, so that the pandas can snack on them, if they so choose. See you then!
Cate Harris
Seasonal Keeper
 
Friday, October 22
We are thrilled to know that Lun Lun is pregnant! I have been able to see the fetus during a few ultrasound procedures this week. It is so exciting to see the heartbeat and to see how much the fetus has grown each day. The growth rate is really phenomenal. We will continue to track the fetus’ development with regular ultrasound sessions for as long as Lun Lun will cooperate. So far, she has been a trooper. We are trying not to get overly excited, because she could lose the fetus in the coming days. But it’s hard to contain our excitement and we hope to welcome cub number three in 10-14 days.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, October 20
24-hour birth watch is in full swing. Just as in past years, we’ve provided Lun Lun with a quite zone, and have closed down the back road behind the panda building. Now we only allow small carts to pass by, because Lun Lun doesn’t seem bothered by them. We have also adjusted the temperature in the panda building from the normal 65 degrees to 78 degrees. Just as Cate mentioned in her last update, Lun Lun is sleeping most of the day and her food intake has dropped. She is no longer eating her normal 20-30 pounds of bamboo per day, but closer to 5-10 pounds. She is also eating less of her biscuits and fruit, but in her normal panda fashion, has not given up on sugarcane (a panda favorite). Now, we just continue to watch and wait.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, October 18
Today marks the official start of
Panda Birth Watch 2010, something that I have been looking forward to since I started at Zoo Atlanta. The major change for birth watch is that there will always be a keeper monitoring Lun Lun 24 hours a day. A more minor change that has occurred in the building are some temporary reconfigurations, such as the kitchen and hallway turning into a nursery for a possible cub. Biscuit and produce diet preparation can now be observed by one panda in the morning since it is in front of his (Yang Yang’s or Xi Lan’s) den. The food is no longer created in a magical unseen place; the bears get to look on curiously when we prepare the morning diets. Our boy bears are extremely well behaved and they do not even beg for food.
Lun Lun has been sleeping the days away in her nest box in her favorite corner of her den. She pushes aside the hay we put down for her and goes straight for the floor. It is really interesting to see the changes that she is going through, mostly the lethargy. I had no idea a panda could sleep for so long! She is still participating in ultrasounds with the vet staff and keepers opportunistically. Stay tuned to see how our wonderful panda mommy of two (come on lucky number three!), adjusts during this period.
Cate Harris
Seasonal Keeper
 
Friday, October 15
Lun Lun has finally begun to exhibit behavior related to pregnancy/pseudopregnancy.  Since I arrived on Tuesday morning, she has been lethargic, reluctant to train and has very little appetite for her bamboo.  She is still eating her biscuits and produce, but she is starting to leave some of those from her overnight feeding. She is not interested in going on exhibit and just wants to rest in her den. These are normal changes that Lun Lun has experienced the years that she gave birth and also in the years that she did not give birth.
So far, she is still cooperating for ultrasound procedures, but we have to wait for her to be up and moving around.  During this time, if Lun Lun does not want to do something, there is no way to convince her otherwise.  Usually, her biscuits and produce are enough motivation for her, but not right now, so we keep an eye out for when she might be willing to participate in training.  We also add small bites of sugarcane to her rewards for training to help motivate her a little more. 
 
In addition to the behavior changes, Lun Lun’s hormones have also changed. Although the hormone data won’t tell us if she is pregnant or not, those data do help us determine when she is likely to give birth if she is pregnant. Recent hormone results indicate that Lun Lun is nearing the end of a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. So, we will start 24-hour birth watch on Monday.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II
 
Wednesday, October 13
I guess I should start out by introducing myself. My name is Katie and I am a seasonal keeper here at Zoo Atlanta. I help take care of our adorable panda bears and the red panda, while some of the full time keepers work nights for panda birth watch. I have come to find out that our pandas are quite the celebrities here at the Zoo, especially our youngest panda Xi Lan. Xi Lan has a great personality and is hilarious to watch when he is in a playful mood. Sometimes we will put his biscuits in a toy and he will run around the exhibit knocking into it to try and get his biscuits out.
 
I have learned so much about our pandas, and what a joy it is to be able to work with these majestic animals.
Katie Gatlin
Seasonal Keeper
 
Monday, October 11
Before I get into the exciting Enrichment Day overview, I suppose I should go ahead and introduce myself. I’m a seasonal keeper that was brought in especially for Lun Lun’s birth watch. I will be taking the daytime shift of one of the fulltime keepers who will start working a night shift soon for birth watch. Some of the other keepers have mentioned us “newbies,” so I am the newbie Cate (not the Kate that you know and love).
 
Now, onto fun panda talk. Saturday was the very eventful Play the Animal Way, if you were Yang Yang or Xi Lan. Lun Lun spent most of her day sleeping in the hammock or munching on some bamboo. Needless to say, she opted out of Play the Animal Way albeit her abundance of toys. The best part of watching the pandas was definitely seeing Yang with his huge circus ball. He tackled it into the corner, used his water drinker to step up, and stood on top of the ball! Then, Papa Yang decided to turn his attention to a fire hose ice block hanging from his teepee tree structure. With great dexterity, he climbed up on the logs, slid his legs in between a convenient fork in the log, pulled a Spiderman (Spiderpanda?) maneuver by going upside down, grabbing the block and self anointing himself with the it. Oh, did I mention that we poured vanilla scented mouthwash on it? Xi Lan thoroughly enjoyed his yellow plastic cinnamon scented car by climbing in through the sun roof and “driving.”
 
This job is an extremely rewarding opportunity and I’m so glad to be a part of it. I have quickly learned that our fuzzy black and white bears have a huge fan base!
Cate Harris
Seasonal Keeper
 
Friday, October 8
I was working on revising temperature guidelines this week, so that we’re all ready for winter. In the Mammal Department, we generally revise these guidelines twice yearly, in the fall and in the spring. We’ve written temperature guidelines for all of the animals in the department, including giant pandas, and these guidelines help us decide when the animals should be housed inside, outside or both. One thing that we do for the pandas in the winter is allow them to get acclimated to the cooler weather. Although the building is kept cool in the winter (sometimes as low as 45 °F), there can still be quite a difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures that they’re exposed to. When the outside air temperature is below 35 °F, we make sure that we give the pandas access to both an indoor and outdoor space before we send them out for the day. This allows them to adjust to the lower outside temperature, and it usually only takes about 30 minutes before they’re ready to go.
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, October 6
We have all been writing about Lun Lun and her twice weekly ultrasounds. They normally occur on Wednesdays and Fridays. In preparation for today’s ultrasound, Heather and I had to shave Lun Lun’s abdomen again yesterday. Dr. Sam Rivera likes to have Lun Lun’s abdomen shaved close to the skin, so that he can obtain the best image possible. Lun Lun is now used to the process and gladly entered the training area, laid down, rolled over, and ate her rewards from Heather while I did my best to give her a shave job with clean lines. Luckily she does not seem to notice if her belly fur is a little uneven.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, October 4
Yang Yang is notorious for sleeping in. Some days he will wait until our lunchtime before he wakes up. It seems that he has passed this trait on to Xi Lan because he is starting to sleep in more and more. Today he didn’t wake up till 11:30am! Someone else who is sleeping more these days is Lun Lun. Now that she is in her birth window she has started to spend less time eating and more time napping. This morning she slept for almost 2 hours and has spent most of her afternoon in the hammock catching some Z’s. As her behavior continues to change over the next few weeks we will keep you posted on other changes she makes as we approach possible birthing time!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals
 
Friday, October 1
It’s still business as usual in the giant panda building for Lun Lun. As is typical for Fridays, the keepers and vet staff performed Lun’s weekly ultrasound today. Aside from the fact that she did great, there isn’t much to report from that. It seems odd to be waiting for her birth window to open at this time of year. Because Lun cycled later this year, everything is pushed back a few months. In years past, she would’ve already given birth by now, but this year we haven’t even started birth watch yet. 
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals

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