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Panda Cub Updates (September - July 2010)

Wednesday, September 29
Autumn-like weather has finally come to Atlanta (hopefully it will last!). For the first time since spring, the pandas were able to stay outside in the habitats all day. Generally, the pandas do not care where they are as long as they have fresh food, so they really do not mind being inside all summer. However, they do seem to enjoy the outdoors in cool weather. Yang Yang took an extra long nap this morning out in Habitat 2, and Xi Lan soaked up the sun on the structure in Habitat 1 yesterday afternoon.  
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Monday, September 27
Lately I have been working in the meat-eating section of the carnivore area (tigers, lions, clouded leopard, meerkats, and otters) while the two new seasonal keepers (Cate and Katie) are being trained in the panda area. But yesterday I got to spend some time with everyone’s favorite black and white fur balls. The day started off nice with all three bears chowing down on some bamboo. Yang Yang even got to enjoy some time outside in Habitat 1 where he took a long nap. Then the rain started and all the pandas were very quiet and slept. The enrichment category for the day was food. So, after all the pandas woke up from their afternoon naps, they were happy to receive a nice frozen fruit treat. I also got some new toys out of the enrichment shed for Xi Lan to play with. It was a relaxing day and enjoyable day in the panda building!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper, Mammals

Friday, September 24
Lun Lun had her usual Friday ultrasound procedure this morning. Ultrasound procedures are currently conducted twice a week. There is nothing exciting to report from the procedure this morning. Lun Lun’s behavior and hormones have not changed significantly, yet, which means it’s still too early to expect to see a developing fetus on ultrasound. Doing ultrasound procedures during this time, provides good practice for Lun Lun and is important for documenting reproductive system changes. Lun Lun cooperated very well. So well, that she was willing to keep holding the position even after the vet team was done. Let’s hope she continues to be so cooperative in the coming weeks when she enters her nesting phase.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, September 22
Well, Lun Lun is still sleeping a little more then her norm, but we haven’t seen any other signs of a birth window drawing closer.  Lun Lun may not be ready to show us if she has a cub or not, but we are taking steps to be ready either way. Currently we are training three seasonal keepers that will help cover all the shifts so we are prepared for night watch. You have already “met” Kris G. thru her previous updates. Soon, you will get to hear from Katie G. and Cate H. as they train in and learn what it takes to care for Zoo Atlanta’s panda family.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, September 17
Today it was cool enough that both Yang Yang and Xi Lan were able to spend the morning outside. After eating his fill of bamboo, Yang Yang spent most of the morning sleeping in a sunny spot in the exhibit. He has a favorite spot on the ground in Habitat 2 where he often sleeps. That’s where he was this morning. Unfortunately, he looks a lot like a rock to the Zoo’s visitors when he does this. Xi Lan also ate for awhile and then spent some time walking around and smelling. Lun Lun was inside and spent most of the morning sleeping in the hammock. She has been sleeping a little more than usual in recent days. This is one of the first behavioral changes we look for when her birth window is approaching. So far, it’s not a very noticeable change, though. So, I think we still have at least a few weeks before birth watch will start.

Hope to see everyone at the PANDAMONIUM! Birthday Celebration tomorrow!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, September 15
What a pleasure it was to collect data on Monday! Now that the temperatures are cooler in the morning, the giant pandas are able to enjoy their outdoor habitats again. On Monday I observed Yang for an hour in the morning while he was in Habitat 1, which was a nice change of pace for both of us. Don’t get me wrong, the giant pandas love their air conditioning and never complain about spending time in the dayrooms in the summer. But I always look forward to fall, when the pandas start to enjoy being outside again. Yang spent most of the hour resting and eating, like usual, but was also very interested in the smells in the yard. At the end of my observation period, though, when the temperature had increased a bit, he spent most of his time near the shift door leading inside. I thought the temperature was perfect, but Yang thought he needed to be inside, where it was just a bit cooler.
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Monday, September 13
Xi Lan has been very playful lately. While Yang Yang and Lun Lun have been sleeping in the afternoon, Xi Lan has been playing with toys. His favorite types of toy are ones that we hang from the climbing structures. He loves to charge and swing on them! He also loves jolly balls. Yesterday he took a jolly ball up the climbing structure and chewed on it all afternoon. A toy that the adults like playing with as much as Xi Lan is a plastic barrel cut in half. They love sitting in the half barrel and if you fill it with some ice they go bananas! Being able to give the bears enriching toys that they enjoy is one of the most rewarding parts of this job.

I’m sure we will see a lot of playing this weekend at the Pandamonium Birthday Celebration for the bears on Saturday September 18!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Panda Keeper

Wednesday, September 8
Sometimes we like to do biscuit feedings to help encourage the pandas to eat bamboo. Xi Lan just turned 2 last week, and we are spending more time throughout the day trying to encourage him to eat more bamboo. What we do is sit at the window to the dayroom with his leafeater biscuits, give him a command to eat some bamboo, and wait. If he eats some bamboo, even if it’s just a bite, we offer a biscuit. Then give him the command to eat some more, reward him if he does and so on. Some days we have time to do one or two biscuit feedings, which is ideal, but other days there isn’t time for this. Today Xi Lan is in the off exhibit dens. So, we will have plenty of opportunities to offer biscuits and ask him to eat bamboo.
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, September 3
If you didn’t already know, Monday was Xi Lan’s second birthday. To celebrate he got a specially painted bag with treats inside, and a giant ice block. It appears that he really enjoyed both, though I was not here to observe it. What I was able to see were some photos that were taken of him that day. The funny thing was that in many of the photos he looks a lot, and I mean a lot, like Yang Yang. There is one currently as our screen saver on the computer in the building, and if you didn’t know better, you may think that it was Yang. Luckily, I see them enough to know, but the average person would be easily fooled. I guess we can assume who’s side of the family tree he is going to take after.  Now he just needs to grow to be as big as his dad.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, September 1
We are still in the waiting stage with Lun Lun. The possible birth window is determined using hormone data from her urine, behavioral changes, and physical changes. We will receive the next set of hormone results next week. The initial behavioral changes we watch for are decreased appetite and decreased activity. So far, Lun Lun is behaving normally and we haven’t observed any physical changes (e.g. nipple development). The keepers and vet staff are performing regular ultrasound procedures on Lun Lun, but there is nothing new to report from that either. So, we will continue to monitor her and wait. In the meantime, we are preparing for birth watch by hiring additional staff. During Lun Lun’s birth window, we have keeper staff monitor Lun Lun 24 hours per day.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Monday, August 30
During these warm summer months, the adult giant pandas really hate the hot weather. They would much rather spend their days in the air conditioning than be outside. However, the past two weeks we have had the patio door open for whichever panda was off exhibit in the indoor holding. Each panda reacted differently. Xi Lan, who doesn’t mind the warmer temperatures, was seen a few times walking around the patio and playing with the swing toy. Yang Yang was not brave enough to venture outside, but he did enjoy napping in front of the open door to receive a nice cool breeze from inside and a little sunshine from outside. Lun Lun was bold enough to even sit outside resting her head on the door’s edge. Soon enough it will be cool enough for them to really get to enjoy some outside time!

Today is Xi Lan’s 2nd birthday! The birthday boy will be celebrating today with an ice block and a large paper bag decorated like a present and filled with edible treats. We will try to take some pictures of him enjoying his presents to post later this week. Don’t forget to save the date for Saturday, September 18, when we’ll be celebrating all three pandas’ birthdays!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, August 25

 
Lun Lun at the Chengdu Research Base in 1998.  

Today is Lun Lun’s birthday! She is 13 years old. I have known Lun Lun since she was 2 weeks old. I was present for the artificial insemination procedure on her mother, Bing Bing, which resulted in Lun Lun. I have 13 years of wonderful memories of Lun Lun.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite early memories of Lun Lun with you. When she was 1-2 years old, she was living at the Chengdu Research Base with Yang Yang and twins their age, Xiao Shuang and Da Shuang. I was in Chengdu most of that year collecting data for my dissertation and collecting data for development and play studies. I spent hundreds of hours watching those four pandas for my studies. They were very entertaining subjects.

Lun Lun and Yang Yang had been play partners for a few months before Xiao Shuang, a male, and Da Shuang, a female, moved in with them. Lun Lun was a roly poly girl and wasn’t as agile as Yang Yang. He learned to climb trees long before she did, and there were many afternoons that he went up a tree to sleep and left poor Lun Lun below trying unsuccessfully over and over to reach him. Although I felt badly for her, I did enjoy watching her often comical attempts to climb up to him. She eventually figured it out and in the end became the more avid climber.

 
  Lun Lun and Yang Yang at the Chengdu Research base in 1999.

Being boys, Yang Yang and Xiao Shuang became fast friends. They engaged in long, vigorous, rough play bouts every day. Lun Lun didn’t like to be left out. So, she would often join the boys. She never lasted long, though. The boys were just too rough and after a few minutes she’d leave their play sessions. Xiao Shuang’s sister, Da Shuang, never even tried to join the boys. She always kept a ladylike distance from them when they played.

It’s hard for me to believe Lun Lun is 13. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to know her so well all these years. I am also grateful to have her here in Atlanta to be able to continue to share her life for years to come.

Lun Lun got a nice, big, juicy pear this morning to start her birthday. She also received an ice cake, which is she is now ignoring in favor of eating bamboo. The staff always celebrates the pandas’ birthdays on the actual date with special treats.

We will also be having a special celebration on September 18 to commemorate all three of the giant pandas’ birthdays. The pandas are very happy to celebrate their birthdays twice with extra birthday treats! Please check the Zoo’s website for details about the exciting Pandamonium celebration. We hope you will join us on September 18 for the party!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, August 18
Every once in a while the Zoo’s Animal Nutrition Kitchen brings in different food items that the pandas do not get a on a regular basis. Today, the kitchen received a big shipment of pears. So we gave some to the pandas. Yang Yang and Lun Lun used to get pears everyday, so it is not really a new item for them, but rather one they have not had in awhile. Xi Lan has never had a pear before. What was his reaction when offered this novel food item? He turned his little nose up at it. I even tried to entice him by sticking a biscuit in the pear. He retrieved the biscuit and left the pear. I guess Lun Lun and Yang Yang will just have to split the rest of them.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III

Monday, August 16
Sometimes I just forget how cold the panda building can be. I had been out of the building for a few days, working in another area, and the temperature change in pandas hit me very quickly. Luckily I keep a spare sweatshirt in my locker just in case I forget to bring one in with me, which I did that day. It is sort of a joke around the Zoo that the panda keepers can always been seen wearing sweatshirts and pants even though it is hot outside. But the pandas like it cold, so the thermostat is not get set over 65°F throughout the year. There is one exception to that rule, and that is during birthing season, which hopefully is coming soon. During that time we raise the building temperature to 78-82°.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, August 13
Hello panda world, this is my first update since I joined the panda crew! I have been an intern with the pandas on and off since January 2010, but this has been my first month as a true panda keeper. The experience thus far has been one of a kind! In the past month I have had the opportunity to see training sessions with little Xi Lan for blood draws and Lun Lun for ultrasounds. I have also gotten to experience waking Yang Yang up at 10:30 a.m. to stay on schedule for the day’s routine. My favorite experience so far is seeing the pandas’ response to the different kinds of enrichment they receive throughout the week. The bears receive everything from frozen bananas and apples, to different toys they can manipulate, and scents they can explore. But the one thing I love to give them over everything else is cinnamon! All three bears love it! Right now on the camera I can see Xi Lan rubbing a toy covered in cinnamon all over himself. I look forward to may more memorable experiences with the pandas in the weeks to come!
Kris Gelhardt
Seasonal Giant Panda Keeper
 

Wednesday, August 11
Yang Yang is finally in full summer-panda-mode.  For the past couple of weeks, he has been sleeping in late (one day last week, we had to wake him up at 10:30!), snacking lightly on bamboo, and then sleeping all afternoon. Yang Yang is normally a laid back bear, but this time of year, he is the definition of tranquility. I think if he did not need to eat, he would just sleep all the time.  I find it interesting that other bear species spend the summer eating as much as they can find to fatten up for the winter, but pandas are the opposite. Since pandas do not hibernate, they can rest up in the summer and eat all winter.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Monday, August 9
The first week of August has come and gone! I am now realizing that Lun Lun, Yang Yang, and Xi Lan’s birthdays are fast approaching. Every year since I have been a panda keeper I have played some role in designing, preparing, and/or giving the pandas their ice cakes.  It is something I really love doing. But if they are to have something on their special day this year, I have to start preparing and creating now. There are many steps to completing each cake; they are easy to do, but can be time consuming as you wait for each layer to freeze before you move onto the next one. You will just have to stay tune to see what it made for Yang and Lun’s 13th and Xi Lan’s 2nd birthday treats- their birthdays are fast approaching.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper II

Friday, August 6
This is a follow-up to my last update about Xi Lan’s blood draw training. Yesterday, one of our vet techs, Sharon, came to the building to work with Xi Lan and me on the next step – using the needle. I wanted to get Sharon involved since she is the one who ultimately will be drawing his blood. For training purposes, we always start with a blunt needle to gauge the animal’s reaction to being pricked. So, I got Xi Lan into position in the blood sleeve and Sharon poked his forearm with the blunt needle – no reaction. This is what we hope for, of course, and Xi Lan did great!  Then Sharon put some rubbing alcohol on the shaved spot on his forearm; this is routine, just like when you go to the doctor and get your blood drawn.  However, Xi Lan had never experienced the alcohol before. It took a few seconds for the odor to reach his nose, but I could see the exact second that it did.  He was holding his arm in the sleeve and focusing on me for his reward and then I saw his face change – he froze and his eyes got very wide. He just stared and then slowly pulled his arm out of the sleeve. I was expecting him to sniff his forearm and start self-anointing (this is what Lun Lun does), but he just sat for a minute and then started slowly looking around the den for the scent. After a few minutes of this, I was able to break the spell and he returned to the blood sleeve. He never found the source of the alcohol smell, even though it was on his arm. What a silly bear!
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Wednesday, August 4
Xi Lan has been a little picky lately about his bamboo. He’s just not that interested in what the keepers are offering, despite the fact that they are trying different species, some of which they are cutting on grounds. Mei Lan went through the same thing around this age, and the keepers did the same thing for her that they are doing for Xi Lan. It’s possible that the panda cubs become more finicky during the warm weather, or maybe it’s related to age. Could Xi Lan be entering his terrible twos? Can giant panda cubs even be terrible? I don’t think so. Either way, we’ll continue to offer Xi Lan a variety of species of bamboo so he can choose what he likes. I’m sure we’ll get it right at some point! 
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Monday, August 2
A couple weeks back I made a new enrichment toy for the pandas to enjoy; at least I was hoping that they would.  It was actually a project that I had designed and gotten approved about six months ago, but had not found the time to just sit down and make it. I actually made three of the same object, just of different sizes, for the sun bears and otters also. Overall, it was simple in design and construction, as it only required a piece of PVC, capped on both ends, with small holes drilled throughout the main body. Inside I placed some bells, which I had purchased at an after holiday sale, which led me to calling the new object the “PVC Jingle” (I try to give new names to objects that I make such as the dump feeder, PVC slide, and the octopus). The idea was that every time that the panda would move it, it would cause the bells to jingle, giving the pandas a sound and stimulating their sense of hearing. I was unsure how the pandas were going to react to the new sound initially -- were they going to be big babies and run away, or be brave and make lots of noise with it? Either way it would be good for them as enrichment helps to stimulate all of their senses, just in different ways. Also, we really don’t have much in the way of sounds, and this would be the first item that they could control the amount of sound produced. So far, it seems to be a hit with Xi Lan and Lun. Yang has yet to receive it. When new enrichment is given, we make sure to do at least three different presentation observations during the daytime to make sure that it is safe and not being destroyed by the pandas.  If everything looks good and promising, then they can have it at any time.

When Xi Lan received it for the first time, it appeared that his goal was to break into it and see what was on the inside. He was sitting with it between his arms, biting at the end caps, as if he was trying to peel off the outside. Eventually he gave up on this task and decided that it would be just as interesting to knock it around the dayroom. I don’t think that Lun could quite figure out what it was, as I placed it outside one of the inside dens so she would have to reach out to interact with it. She would hit it for awhile, stop, look at it, hit it a couple more times, stop, think some more, stop, etc. until it rolled too far away to hit. I would put it closer to the den again, and then the same action repeated itself.

It was nice to see that they enjoyed it, as not all toys turn out to be a hit.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, July 30
This is the first time I have had the pleasure of working with the pandas for a while now, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I was greeted this morning with three very awake and raring to go pandas. After weighing them all, I did a short training session with each of them and then set them up on exhibit. All the pandas were very contented with the bamboo selection I picked for them this morning, which is seldom the case. Normally one of them has something to say about the menu. After breakfast, all three of the pandas took a power nap. Normally they will sleep for about an hour, wake up, and start wondering when their biscuits and lunch bamboo will be delivered. Today, however, all three slept right through lunch. In my eight years here working in pandas, I have never seen that. We have a rule here in the panda building, that you never wake up a sleeping panda. You usually won't happy with the result. They all woke up on their own at about 12:45. Due to the fact that they are eating primarily the leaves on the bamboo now, I was able to clean the dayrooms and offer them their lunch and biscuits in record time. Three happy pandas and it was barely past 1:00. This was the norm today and not the exception as everyone was contented pretty much the entire afternoon, including myself. If only every day could be like today in the panda building.
Kenn Harwood
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Wednesday, July 28
We keepers have been hard at work training Xi Lan this year. While Xi Lan was still with Lun Lun, we all taught him “shift,” “come” and “paws down.” Now that he is weaned, it is easier to work one-on-one with him on more difficult behaviors. We all have several, specific behaviors we are training Xi Lan to accomplish. For example, Kate is teaching him to present his eyes and shoulders, and JT is working on the behaviors “up” and “down.” One of the behaviors I am teaching Xi Lan is to cooperate with voluntary blood draws. Both of his parents and Mei Lan are proficient at having blood drawn from their forearms, and I am hopeful Xi Lan will be the same. We use a “sleeve” made of PVC that allows the pandas to hold out their forearms so a vet tech can easily access one of the veins in this area. Xi Lan has picked up the behavior surprisingly quickly! I have only been working on this behavior for a couple of months, and he presents and holds his arm in the sleeve like a pro. On Tuesday I was able to shave a little patch of hair from his forearm for the first time; he did not even seem to notice. It won’t be long before the vet techs can easily take a blood sample from Xi Lan. I’m very proud of the progress Xi Lan has made with this behavior!
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Friday, July 23
The pandas' ever-changing bamboo preferences have changed again. Over the last two weeks they have shifted from eating the culm or stalk of the bamboo to eating mostly the leaves. This means we have been on the hunt for a leafy species that the pandas will like and have had the most luck with Yellow Groove and Henon. Xi Lan has been slightly more finicky than Lun Lun and Yang Yang, so the keepers have been cutting a few other types that grow on Zoo grounds to try. We have had mixed results, as he will eat one type really well one day, but not the next. I guess that's what you get when you take care of such a picky eater.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, July 21
Last Saturday Xi Lan was extremely playful. When I put him out in the dayroom first thing that morning, he was more interested in playing with the toys I had given him than in eating his bamboo. This is not like Xi Lan; since Lun Lun weaned him, he has been too busy eating to find much time for play. However, on this day, he was feisty, and throughout the day he consistently preferred playing with his enrichment items rather than eating bamboo. I admit, I took a few minutes off from routine to sit and watch him on the camera a few times. I could not believe how often he was playing! I am happy to see him take some time off his busy eating schedule to enjoy himself.
Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Monday, July 19
Now that Lun Lun’s weight has increased and stabilized, she can afford to spend less time eating than she did when nursing a cub. This is giving us a great opportunity to offer her more and different types of enrichment with which she will actually engage. It is very rewarding to a keeper to see an animal interact with something you spent time making or planning. Last week, Lun Lun played with a hanging feeder, a bamboo flute (we hide biscuits inside bamboo culms), ball with food inside, PVC puzzle feeder, many different scents, and a few others. My favorite was the ball with food inside, because we placed the ball inside a large bag with hay. Lun Lun is used to us hiding the food in the bag and not the ball. She kept returning to the bag and hay to look for the treats, since that is normally where she finds them. She did eventually find the food hidden in the ball, but I think she was slightly miffed at us for not placing any in the bag like normal.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, July 14
I mentioned in a previous update that summer tends to be a time when giant pandas eat less and rest more.  However, this summer Yang Yang, Lun Lun and Xi Lan are proving me wrong.  Although they are more finicky about the bamboo than they have been over the past few months (if that is even possible!), they must be continuing to eat well since all of them are holding their weights steady.  Their current morning weights are:

Lun Lun:  107.7 kg
Yang Yang:  130.5 kg
Xi Lan:  46.5 kg

Heather Baker Roberts
Carnivore Keeper II

Monday, July 12
As previous updates have mentioned, we sometimes refer to Lun as our “slot machine” because she will take multiple biscuits at one time. Yang, of course, differs in that he will only eat one at a time and do that very slowly. But the other night he confused me for a second. Right before I was about to leave for the evening, I was giving him the rest of his fruit and biscuits and decided to give him two at one time. Instead of pulling one out of his mouth and holding onto it (a normal reaction), he decided to chew both. When he was done with those I did it again, and he ate both of the same time again, which is a little odd. So, I thought that I would try three biscuits at once, and once again he ate all three at the same time. I had to stop and think for a moment to make sure that it was Yang. He wanted to be our “slot machine” that evening. By the next morning, though, it was back to normal of one biscuit at a time. I guess he just wanted to confuse me!
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, July 9
Bears are bears are bears, right? Wrong. Most of you reading this are big bear fans, and even bigger giant panda fans, so I’m sure you know many of the differences, both obvious and somewhat hidden between all of these funny, cute, and sometimes quirky species. Let me fill you in on another side of things that is also a tad different when it comes to caring for bears- training. A few updates ago, Layla mentioned the spectacular training program that our pandas participate in here at Zoo Atlanta. Our entire zoo has an established program focused specifically on training and behavior management. This program becomes especially important when it comes to welcoming new animals into our midst and helping them to learn to adapt and discover their way around their new environment.

Lun Lun and Yang Yang went through this program when they arrived and now our new sun bears, “Sabah” and “Xander” are eager participants.  I was reminded again today of how important it is to know each species and each individual animal as just that, an individual. While both the sun bears and the giant pandas are both very intelligent, it is almost impossible to treat them and manage them in exactly the same way.

To give a quick insight I can fill you in on the two biggest differences that Heather and I were discussing today, the speed of the session, and the natural behaviors presented. Giant pandas seem to work at a bit of a slower, more patient pace,  and they are more willing to stay with the trainer and give things a few tries in order to get them correct. Sun bears sometimes seem to move at the speed of light and because they are so intelligent can offer behaviors so quickly that you didn’t even see them coming! This is why training plans come in so handy, because we are then prepared to take the next step whenever the animal lets us know it is time. Secondly, we must simply watch each animal and observe their natural body positions and behaviors. While you watch the giant pandas on the panda cam I encourage you to play a little game and watch their movements, such as how they grab bamboo, sleep, sit, walk, and even peek through their doors at us, and see if you can match their natural behaviors to the different trained behaviors (ultrasound, blood draw, eye present, ear present). Then come and visit our sun bears and see if you can see different natural behaviors and body positions (sleeping, eating, standing, foraging) and the differences in training that might be needed. I guarantee you will be surprised by what you discover!
Megan Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, July 7
As part of the bears’ daily diet they receive leafeater biscuits throughout the day. We sometimes use them for training, sometimes we place them in enrichment toys to make the bears work for them, and then other times we scatter them around the exhibit to make the bears search for them. Well, a few weeks ago we did a normal scatter feed for Xi Lan in the day room that contains the hammock. I like to toss a few biscuits into the hammock so the pandas have to climb into it to retrieve the biscuits. Xi Lan, being his normal goofy self, decided that he would not be bothered by climbing into the hammock to eat the biscuits, but take a shortcut instead. His shortcut was to stick his head up though the weave of the hammock and eat the biscuits. Luckily he decided to back out the way he came, since I am not sure his entire body would have fit the way he was headed. Leave it to the little guy to find his own way of doing things. And now, for his safety, biscuits are no longer placed in the hammock for him.
Kate Roca
Carnivore Keeper III

Monday, July 5
It was nice have a cool morning on the 4th and 5th, as I was able to put two pandas outside first thing in the morning. This time of year it is a rare occurrence for that to happen, because normally when we first come in a 7 a.m. it is already 80°+ outside.And as we all know, our pandas will not tolerate any temperatures near that. As a result, the morning cleaning went a little quicker than normal, as I did not have to move bears around, or start and stop the cleaning process. Typically when it is hot outside we have to move one bear onto exhibit, clean that area, move another bear, clean that area, then finally move the last bear to finish cleaning.It takes extra time and there is no fluidity to anything. But on the 4th and 5th, I was able to put everyone out first thing, then open everything up to be cleaned at one time. It was very nice.
Joseph T. Svoke
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, July 2
I have three very well behaved dogs at home. They are polite and well-mannered, and of course very cute. You might be wondering why I'm talking about my dogs in a panda update ... Even though my dogs are well behaved, they don't actually know very many behaviors. Sure, they will sit and lay down, even shake, but not much more. The pandas, on the other hand, know a huge number of behaviors. Everything from presenting their ears to allowing an abdominal shave and ultrasound. All without manual restraint. Impressive, right? These behaviors are all very important for the daily care and husbandry of the pandas. Need to give Lun Lun eye drops? No problem, she'll present her eye for you! Need to draw a routine blood sample from Yang Yang? He won't mind! Now, this isn't to say that my dogs aren't smart. However, it does speak volumes about the dedication of the panda keepers.
Layla Dampier
Carnivore Keeper II

June - April Past Panda Cub Updates >