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Thanks to a generous gift from EarthCam, fans all over the world can continue to enjoy watching Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas. PandaCam will be running 24 hours a day.

 

Panda Cam

The members of our giant panda team are the minds behind the movement of the cam during the day, but they usually leave the Zoo by about 5:30 p.m EST. Lights are dimmed in the building at night after everyone goes to bed, and the cam view remains stationary. If Mei Lun and Mei Huan are up playing, you may see them if they wander into view.
 
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 Panda Updates
 
Friday, April 17
We had an unusual day in pandas yesterday. Yang Yang slept until 10:30 a.m. and then took a long nap in the afternoon as well. This is not too odd because sometimes the pandas do sleep late when they are passing some of the mucous lining of their stomachs in the form of a mucous stool. However, Yang Yang did not pass a mucous stool yesterday. We are not concerned that anything is wrong with Yang Yang - otherwise, he is behaving normally -- eating, etc. He has been very active lately since this is breeding season. Perhaps he just needs a rest day. Yang Yang is fortunate that he has the luxury to take such rest days.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, April 15
While the twins loved the firehose-web our intern created, I am here to update that their parents weren't as thrilled.  Lun Lun saw it this morning, and in typical Lun-fashion, couldn't have cared less, since the firehose-web did not provide biscuits nor bamboo and was therefore useless to her. Yang Yang's turn was on Tuesday, and in typical Yang-fashion, he was scared of it.  He walked into the den, sniffed around all cautious-like, and then ran back out and ignored the area for the rest of the day. This is the risk we take when creating new enrichment. Sometimes the animals love it, and sometimes they ignore it.
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, April 13
With the rainy weather, today was the twins' turn to stay off exhibit for the day while their parents were in the dayrooms. To make things new and interesting for them, I tasked one of our awesome interns to help with creating a firehose "spiderweb" in one of the dens for the girls. Our intern spent a good chunk of time working on this, and the result was very cool! Both girls came over to investigate it, but it was Mei Huan that we saw multiple times trying to climb the tangled mess of firehose – and she succeeded a few times! It's always fun to come up with new and creative ways to enrich the animals' lives, and it’s even more fun when it's a brand new idea we've never thought of!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, April 8
We don't just have pandas to breed and make babies, but that’s a great added bonus. The main reason Zoo Atlanta has giant pandas is for research purposes. We are currently participating in two research projects looking at hormonal data. The best way to collect this type of information is through urine and feces! So, we're collecting daily urine on Lun Lun and Yang Yang, plus feces throughout the week from everyone, including the twins. On top of this, it's breeding season! So that means even more urine is needed from Lun Lun to keep tabs on her hormones so we know when she cycles.  
 
It's a lot of urine and poop we have to collect! To make our lives a bit easier, we have a slew of check-off sheets for each research project and for our breeding season so we know what we need to collect and when. Every morning, the opener comes in and stares at all eight sheets of paper to figure out what we need from whom. This takes about five minutes as we encourage our brains to focus. This also means we're usually keeping one of the adults off exhibit during the afternoon so they can urinate on the concrete floors (that's how we collect the sample). Giant pandas only urinate a few times a day, so trying to catch it can be tricky! Some zoos have trained their pandas to urinate on command for various reasons, and I'm really considering attempting to do the same with ours!
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, April 6
We recently celebrated Easter in PandaLand. All of the giant pandas and the red panda received Easter-themed enrichment items with all sorts of scents and goodies. One of my favorite part of being a keeper is getting to watch our animals interact with different toys. Each animal has a different list of items approved by our vet staff to ensure safety. Because I am a "swing" keeper and am trained in a couple different areas, I get to watch how a lot of different animals interact with enrichment. I recently found out that our resident tanuki, Loki and Thor, anoint themselves with different scents just like our giant pandas do! Some of their favorite scents include body sprays from a well-known bath store.  


Although we do provide daily enrichment for all Zoo Atlanta residents, holidays and themed days are extra-special because we have a team of Volunteers who make and decorate enrichment items for all the animals. This year our giant pandas each received two papier-mache eggs, an Easter basket, colorful paper-linked chains, and Jell-O eggs. I expected Lun Lun, Yang Yang and the Meis to anoint themselves with the Jello-O eggs. Instead, all the bears completely ignored them, and the keepers were stuck picking up the melted remains! Yang Yang did, however, anoint himself with the papier-mache egg, which had biscuits flying every which way as he rubbed it all over himself. The baskets were filled with wood wool and yummy produce. Idgie the red panda also received a decorated hard-boiled egg in addition to Jell-O eggs. She walked by the Jell-O egg and pursed her lips like she was disgusted by it, then continued on to investigate the rest of her holiday items.

Thank you so much to our dedicated Volunteers who helped make Easter at Zoo Atlanta fun and exciting for animals, keepers and guests!
Megan M. 
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, April 1
We have recently been offering Lun Lun and Yang Yang "howdy" access in the outdoor habitats. "Howdy" access just means that we open up a panel in between the habitats that allows the pandas to see each other and interact without contact if they choose to do so. We use howdy access frequently during breeding season to gauge Lun Lun's and Yang Yang' s reactions to each other and receptivity to mating. So far this year we have not observed interest from either panda. Yesterday, Lun Lun sat at the howdy door for a few minutes, but Yang Yang was busy sniffing and scent-marking. Later, we saw Yang Yang peering through the howdy door, but Lun Lun was eating bamboo.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals


Monday, March 30
Today has been very status quo in the panda building. Everyone seems to be enjoying the cooler weather and sunshine that rolled in this weekend. The bamboo is rather delicious today. Keepers love to see happy pandas with bellies full of bamboo. Hopefully the pandas will continue to enjoy this bamboo over the next few days, especially since we're expecting rain several days this week!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Friday, March 27
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have quickly upset Lun Lun's reign as our biggest mess-maker. Those girls are little bamboo-eating-machines. They sit and eat until they have obliterated every single piece we give them. When we clean up after them, there is nothing left over a foot long - just tiny little shreds and leaves. Mei Lun is the queen of eating. Mei Huan will at least take naps in between bamboo-destruction sessions, but Mei Lun just eats and eats and eats. Just like Lun Lun before her, we wonder where she puts all of that bamboo!
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals
Wednesday, March 25
During opening routine yesterday morning, I walked in the building to find Mei Lun asleep in an off-exhibit den, with her sister asleep in Dayroom One (they had access to both areas overnight). I thought, great! This way I can weigh one girl, get her settled outside, and then weigh the other.  All went smoothly until Mei Huan woke up in the dayroom to discover that she was temporarily "secured" in the dayroom while her sister had shifted out onto exhibit after getting weighed. Mei Huan started chirping at her sister, who chirped back. I think Mei Lun must have thought she was going to wherever her sister was, because as soon as I secured Mei Lun out onto exhibit, she started chirping and squeaking and squawking for her sister from outside.  I quickly weighed Mei Huan (who was suddenly unfazed by being alone), and as I shifted her out into the outdoor exhibit with her sister, Mei Lun ran back inside to find her sister. Mei Huan sauntered past her clearly anxious sister and toodled outside with Mei Lun hot on her heels. The whole thing lasted less than two minutes, but it was hilarious to watch one girl get worked up, then relax while the other one who was relaxed got all worked up. So much drama! Clearly these girls like being together. As soon as they were both outside they quickly settled down to eat, and no more drama ensued. Ironically, later that day I separated them for individual training sessions for about 10-15 minutes, and no one got upset.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, March 23 
Giant panda breeding season is just around the corner and will be here before you know it. Lun Lun has begun showing some physical changes that are the precursor to estrus. Because of this, we are on high alert. We will monitor her physical and behavioral changes very closely over the next few weeks. Monitoring both of these can give you a good idea of when estrus will occur, but to really dial in the exact time, you need to get a little more scientific. Because of this, we also collect urine from Lun Lun and test it for hormone levels. We are testing samples on a weekly basis now, but as we get a little closer, we will test it daily and then multiple times per day. From doing this, we can normally determine the start of peak estrus down to the hour. This is extremely important for an animal that is only able to conceive in a 36-hour window. Every hour counts. Without the hormone data, we would only be guessing, an educated guess, as to when we should begin breeding introductions or any artificial insemination procedures. Armed with the hormone data derived from urine testing, we have been successful during Lun Lun's last four breeding seasons, resulting in five wonderful cubs. We are hoping to make it five out of the last five breeding seasons this year. Who ever thought that giant panda urine would be so valuable?    
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper, Carnivores 


Friday, March 20
Due to the rainy weather we had here yesterday, Lun Lun got to spend the day inside with the keepers. She seemed to enjoy herself as she was able to get all the bamboo she wanted and she didn't have to wait for it like she would if she was out in one of the habitats. All we had to do was put some in the den next to her and give her access, and boom, instant bamboo. We were able to spread her biscuit allotment throughout the entire day, which was nice because it makes it seem as if there is more, and she never knew when it was coming so it was kind of a surprise for her. We were able to do a bit more training with her than usual, and we were able to watch her interact with her enrichment. Yesterday it was a phone book with cinnamon sprinkled on it, which she immediately grabbed and started anointing herself with the scent. She then proceeded to tear it into many, many pieces. She even got a special visit from Dr. Rebecca Snyder, our former Curator of Mammals! Sometimes days like that are great because we get to spend a bit more time interacting with the animals.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, March 18
Now that the cubs are weaned, things are starting to get back to normal (or as normal as can be) in the panda building. It is a rare moment and one that won't last for very long as we anticipate the approach of Lun Lun's next estrus cycle and the upcoming breeding season. Yang Yang has already started showing some signs that breeding season is beginning. During this time of year, he will spend much more time walking, sniffing, and scent-marking. These are all things a wild male giant panda would do when in search of a mate. Another behavior that Yang Yang has started displaying more frequency is water play. It's a lot of fun watching him play in the pools, but the only thing better is watching Lun Lun play in the pool! She isn't usually very playful unless she is raising a cub, so it was a nice surprise to watch her get some pool playtime in on Sunday. It seems that the pandas are enjoying this wonderful Atlanta weather too!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, March 16
I have been getting trained in the meat-eating side of the Carnivore Department lately, so I have not been in pandas since the beginning of the weaning process. Now that it has been several weeks since their final day together, everyone has settled down to their new routines. Lun Lun has become her much quieter and calmer self. She seems to enjoy her nice long naps between feedings now that she doesn't have cubs jumping on her. She can eat her bamboo in peace without worrying about cubs snatching her piece that she worked on to get perfect. And her bamboo amount is slowly being reduced to her normal amount now that she doesn't have to produce double the amount of milk as with her single cubs. The cubs have become quite the bamboo eaters. They nearly destroy every last bit of bamboo that they are given. As keepers, we enjoy the small moment in time that the cubs will eat nearly every bit of the bamboo before they begin to discover the "ideal" panda pieces as their parents and siblings have before them.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, March 13
Transitioning to a different bamboo species is always difficult because the pandas are so selective about what they eat. Since we had to stop offering river cane a few weeks ago, we have been trying to find a suitable bamboo to replace it. We have tried a few different species and had some success with Henon (Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon') and Yellow Groove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). However, we have had a few days lately that the adults were not happy with any bamboo we were offering. We try to encourage them to eat the bamboo with biscuit feedings and by offering different cuttings, but sometimes nothing works. When that happens, we discuss with our bamboo team and pick another species to offer. Some people like to think our pandas are so picky because we spoil them by offering fresh bamboo so frequently. But after speaking with other keepers and visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, it is my opinion that this behavior is just innate to giant pandas. In the wild, a panda would sit down in a nice patch of bamboo and only eat the best and most nutritious pieces, then move on to the next stand to do the same thing. Wild pandas leave immature pieces or less nutritious pieces to develop, so they can be eaten later. Our bamboo team does its best to cut the best-looking bamboo (based on what our pandas choose to eat), but as humans, we cannot detect what the pandas do to know which pieces are the best. Therefore, we offer them huge amounts in hopes that they will find enough to satisfy them. We mostly succeed! It's just those times that we are switching from species to species that we find tricky. 
 
One thing I have noticed after all of my years working with pandas is that the young ones are not as finicky as the adults. They only become more selective around 3 to 4 years of age. I suppose those first couple of years eating bamboo are a learning curve for the youngsters, and they have to develop their palate.
Heather R.
Keeper III, Mammals

Wednesday, March 11
I have recently started learning the opening routine for the giant panda building. Opening shifts are usually one of my favorite shifts to work, and pandas is proving to be no exception. I really enjoy arriving first thing in the morning and being able to say "good morning" to whichever animals I happen to be working with that day. Many animals are awake to greet keepers when we arrive. It's not uncommon for Yang Yang to be asleep in the mornings, and he usually greets us with a big stretch and "old man noises."  It's very comical to witness!
Jennifer A.
Keeper II, Mammals

Friday, March 6
The twins are known for zonking out in the afternoon around 3 or 4 p.m., so if they are on exhibit in one of the outdoor habitats, we've been bringing them in around 3-ish so that whoever is closing that day doesn't have to deal with sleepy sub-adult pandas who happily ignore their keepers. This has allowed us to have more time bonding and training with the girls when they are inside the building.  

We aim to teach them everything their parents know – presenting various body parts at the mesh so we can easily check their body condition without going into the same space with them. Some of these behaviors include presenting their eyes and ears, opening their mouths, presenting their shoulders (for voluntarily receiving vaccines), standing up, presenting their chest, etc. Some of the more advanced behaviors include presenting their arm in a specially designed PVC tube for voluntary blood draw. They essentially stick their arm in a PVC tube with an opening on the top, grab a bar, and allow us to shave their fur and take blood while receiving treats. Their parents are pros at this and have even learned how to present their arm for voluntary blood pressuring monitoring. The girls are at the very beginning stages of the blood-draw behavior, so they're getting familiar with the PVC blood-sleeve, sticking their arm in and grabbing the bar with their arm in the correct orientation (palm up). Mei Lun hasn't gotten that far, but Mei Huan actually grabbed the bar in the correct fashion twice!  I got super-excited as this behavior is very hard to train. I gave her a bunch of treats (called a jackpot) and a while later asked for her to do it again, but she seemed to have completely forgotten.  Oh well, baby steps are baby steps and progress is progress, regardless of how quick it is! 
Jen W. 
Keeper II, Mammals

Wednesday, March 4
This past week was a little crazy in PandaLand. Since the weather has been so rainy, and since our pandas don't like rain, we can only have two pandas on exhibit during this type of weather event. The other day was the first dry day in a while,  so we decided to give the girls access to their outdoor habitat. They had access to habitat two, the tunnel, an outdoor patio and an interior den which allowed them to choose to come inside if being outside was not preferable to them. The girls have become very familiar with both our outdoor habitats, but this was the first time outside without mom Lun Lun nearby. Both girls did surprisingly well!  Initially, Mei Lun and Mei Huan spent some time walking around and vocalizing (their bleats are so adorable!). They settled down soon enough and ate and slept and ate and slept. There was one point during the afternoon that Mei Huan woke up from her afternoon nap and did not see Mei Lun, who had wandered inside for some biscuits and fresh bamboo. Mei Huan seemed a little unsettled that she was outside by herself, but we tossed some biscuits her way, which prompted Mei Lun's return to the habitat and everything was fine. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are having many "firsts" on their own, post-weaning. I can’t help but feel proud of them with every new adventure! 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper


Monday, March 2 
“Oh, the things tweens do …” Today, Mei Huan grabbed her morning bamboo and proceeded to drag it through her habitat and very delicately pulled it up into her favorite lounging spot. She proceeded to munch and nap for the rest of the morning. This was the first time we had observed her combining her bamboo consumption with her nifty elevated spot.  Now this was super-cute; however, through this action she challenged her keepers’ climbing abilities, since we needed to climb up to her favorite spot as well to clean up after her cool munching and lounging activity. Mei Huan made this look way easier than we did when we climbed up to do some “housekeeping!”
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals 


Friday, February 27
With all of the focus on Lun Lun, Mei Lun and Mei Huan lately, some folks forget about our resident male, Yang Yang. So I thought I would write an update about him today. This time of year is breeding season for male giant pandas. During this time, male pandas are more active, consume more bamboo (to bulk up for the ladies!) and spend a good amount of time walking and scent-marking in hopes of finding a fertile female. Yang Yang is no different. If you visit the Zoo in the next couple of months, you may observe Yang Yang walking around his exhibit more often than usual. This behavior is normal, and he will often ignore food and enrichment items during this time. Yang Yang is also more playful during breeding season and will solicit play with his keepers. Obviously, we do not go in the same space with Yang Yang, but we can still play with him. He has been especially playful while out in the off-exhibit habitat lately. He enjoys running along the fence with us and then will run off into the exhibit, rolling and tumbling with the bamboo or other things in the area.

For example, yesterday, he decided his water tub was a toy. He splashed in the water, then dumped it on his head and self-annointed with it. He rolled around with it until it cracked and broke into a few large pieces, and then he ran around with the pieces in his mouth. Yang Yang also played in the pool, splashing the water with his front paws, and he rolled from one side of the pool to the other several times. These early months of the year are the only time we really see this playful side of Yang Yang now that he is older. As a youngster, Yang Yang was playful most days, but now it is a rare treat for us. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Mammals


Wednesday, February 25
The weather in Atlanta has been gross lately: very cold, with periods of rain and some sleet, and today we even anticipate some snow. The Zoo is closed today in anticipation of the winter weather, and our giant pandas don't particularly enjoy being outdoors in cold, wet weather, so everyone's been inside where it's nice and dry.  

This has given Lun Lun several days to be in the back and benefit from lucky extra attention from keepers (which she never turns down), while Yang Yang and the twins have been in the dayrooms.  Even though weaning has been completed, we still want to keep Lun and the cubs as far apart as possible for awhile to prevent any unnecessary confusion that might occur. The girls have been thriving together as sub-adults and plowing through bamboo at astonishing rates! They're growing up so quickly!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Monday, February 23 
The cubs have grown by leaps and bounds over the last few months. One thing that hasn't changed is how Mei Huan reacts when she finds a particularly tasty bit of food. When Mei Lun and Mei Huan first began eating biscuits, it was common for Mei Huan to take her biscuit and go as far away as possible from Lun Lun and Mei Lun so that she could savor it without sharing with her mom or her sister. This behavior is unique to Mei Huan and is not really anything we have experienced with other cubs. She seemed to have grown out of it until one day when we noticed Mei Huan lying on her side while consuming bamboo. This is a very unusual position in which to consume bamboo; most pandas will either lie on their backs, sit, or lean against something while they eat. After watching this behavior off and on for a few weeks, it appears that she is doing the same behavior. She just doesn't seem interested in sharing the yummiest pieces of bamboo with her sister. Mei Lun doesn't seem concerned with her sister's selfish ways, though. There's plenty of yummy bamboo to go around!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals


Friday, February 20
Panda sub-adults seem to poop like it's going out of style. Their digestive systems are definitely faster than an adult panda's. No one really knows why for sure, but it probably has something to do with their digestive system switching from processing primarily milk to primarily bamboo. And I'm pretty sure the twins are having a contest as to who can poop more. The piles never end! And with lots of poop comes lots of bamboo pieces and slivers and branches and partially-chewed-then-spit-out culm to pick up. The mess never seems to end, and it rivals the mess their mom makes! But of course, they just look at you with that innocent "What? We're adorable, so that means you can't get annoyed. Ever" look. Sigh ... they're right! 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, February 18

Giant panda weaning Graduation Day!

Yesterday our “big girl” giant pandas, Mei Huan and Mei Lun, graduated from the weaning process. They will be living single (without mom) from here on out. The entire weaning process was uneventful, and peaceful for mom for sure, and progressed according to our plans. Our giant panda keepers will work with the girls a little more closely to keep them focused on their natural path to maturity. The great news is they have each other, and Lun Lun can now have some well-deserved “me time."

In fact, the girls may already be transitioning into that "tween time!" Yesterday morning, Mei Huan wanted to sleep in, and she completely ignored her keepers. (See photo! Photo by Jen Webb)
Tammy Schmidt
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 

Monday, February 16
Everything in PandaLand has been pretty calm and uneventful. The weaning process is going as planned. The pandas like the bamboo, for the most part. The Zoo also just celebrated Valentine's Day with holiday-themed enrichment for all the Zoo critters. Ironically, the pandas weren't all that impressed with the enrichment. Boxes were ripped into to get treats out, but other than that they pretty much ignored the stuff and munched away on bamboo. These status-quo days are nice, as we get to take a bit of a breather before breeding season starts!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals


Wednesday, February 11
Every now and then we're reminded just how far we will go to keep our giant pandas healthy and happy. Yesterday just so happened to be one of those days. When viewing the pandas' dayrooms, either in person or via PandaCam, you may notice that the ground is covered in mulch instead of a concrete floor. This is beneficial for multiple reasons. It helps keep the bears off of concrete for much of the day, and it gives them nice soft ground to sit and lie upon while they are eating and sleeping.  

While mulch has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. Seeing that it is wood, it does dry out, compact, and degrade over time. When it does start to really degrade, it starts becoming a touch dusty in the dayrooms. It's not very bad, but we need to wipe the walls and climbing structures down a bit more to keep them clean. When this starts happening, we know that it will soon be time to replace the mulch. That's also when the keepers start praying that the day we change the mulch will be on their day off.  It is a very labor-intensive, dirty job.

We first have to remove all of the mulch in the dayrooms by use of shovels and wheelbarrows. You may not think that this is a big deal. Everyone has raked up a bit of mulch in their yard from time to time. In the dayrooms, however, the mulch is at a depth of 12 to 18 inches deep on average. Multiply that by how many square feet the dayrooms contain, and you've got yourself a lot of mulch. The amount of mulch isn't the bad part, though. The bad part is all of the dust that gets kicked up into the air when we are removing the mulch. We take all the necessary safety precautions for all the people working, but that doesn't stop us from becoming completely filthy by the end of the removal. Once the mulch has been removed and the dayrooms are down to their dirt floor, it's time to start bringing in the new mulch. This job is much nicer, but no less labor-intensive. We quickly get into a system and the train of wheelbarrows begins and continues until the mulch is nearly two feet thick. We make it this thick because it will settle over time.  

Yesterday we completed the entire project in just a shade under five hours. Not bad for seven people moving over 120 cubic yards of material. That's over 3,200 cubic feet, or about 1,600+ bags of store-bought mulch. You would think it would end there, but after the installation, the keepers need to begin cleaning the entire building, top to bottom, of all of the dust that has settled. This cannot be done in one afternoon, but will usually be completed over the next week. While all of this was going on, the pandas were outside in the habitats doing their thing, same as usual, so they were not exposed to any of the dust or dirt. When they are brought inside at the end of the day, the building is clean and fresh and has a nice woodsy smell.

I really like watching them come in at the end of the day. Their noses begin to work immediately upon entering the building because of all of the new smells. While it's a giant project for the keepers, as well as for the horticulture and maintenance staff who helped us out, it is completely worth it when you see the pandas come in at the end of the day and enjoy their nice, new mulch. It's a good thing we only have to do this every couple of years, though! 
Kenn Harwood
Lead Keeper, Carnivores


Monday, February 9
We have officially started the second phase of weaning for Lun Lun, Mei Lun, and Mei Huan. Saturday night, the cubs spent their first night without Lun Lun and were reunited Sunday morning. It seemed to go pretty well. Both girls were eager to shift into their dayroom filled with fresh bamboo, biscuits and lots of enrichment. If you've never had the opportunity to see a panda run, it's really quite a sight. Both girls barreled through the shift door on Saturday night, and I was excited to see them settle in so well. Everything seemed to go fine overnight, but all three seemed eager to be reunited the next morning. Everything was very much the same throughout the day and evening on Sunday. I'm sure as the nights go on, the girls will start to notice a little more that Mom isn't around much. We keepers are keeping a very close eye on our little panda family and are doing everything we can to ease everyone into this new phase of their lives. We all have to move out from under our moms' shadows and strike out on our own at some point, right?
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals


Wednesday, February 4

We have a special double update today! 

The giant panda weaning process began for our two “big girls” this week. We are on Day Three of the first step in this process. We expect that it will be pretty low-key since it is a short span of time and the little girls have been eating on their own for some time. An added bonus is that the sisters have one another, so they have a built-in buddy for this new occurrence in their day. This process starts with Lun Lun’s daughters spending  six hours on their own. So far, this has been uneventful. Everyone is eating and resting comfortably, not seeming to notice that they are not with Mom. Mom, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying some "me time." Mom and daughters all reunite in the afternoon as though they were together the whole time. This process is well thought out and really formulated on a global level, meaning that we work with all other giant panda facilities in China and in North America to make sure we are following what would occur naturally at this time in the cubs' lives in the wild while also using a process that has worked for previous cubs, here and in other zoological facilities. So far, so good!
Tammy Schmidt
Assistant Curator of Mammals


Besides feeding the pandas, training sessions, starting the cub weaning process, and gearing up for another breeding season, the keepers have also been busy preparing Habitat Three! For those who don't know, this is an off-exhibit yard that has an actual bamboo forest growing within! To get to Habitat Three, the pandas have to walk through Habitat Two, so using this exhibit requires a little forethought so that the keepers don't find themselves in a shifting pickle. The yard contains several species of bamboo, which gives the pandas many options like they would have in the wild. Unlike the bamboo they receive from the keepers, the pandas are able to harvest the bamboo all on their own. Yang Yang and Lun Lun love going into this yard and can pretty much be left alone all day as they forage for food on their own. We still toss them their biscuits and produce, but they are just as content eating the uber-fresh bamboo. Unfortunately for us, the bamboo forest is so thick that we sometimes can't see the pandas, so we have to walk up and get a visual, even if we know they're in there because we see bamboo trees shaking.   

We only get to use this yard every couple of years, as the pandas are quick to decimate the bamboo forest and we have to let it grow back. Lun Lun was the first one to get to use it this year, and she really enjoys being there! It will be quite some time before we allow the twins over there. The yard is big, and we can only put reliably shifting pandas out here so that we feel confident that they'll come in in the evening! 

On a side note, Habitat Three is also near our red panda exhibit, and our female Idgie got to see her first giant panda! Lun Lun and Idgie had a bit of a stare down before Lun Lun wandered off to find some bamboo to eat, and Idgie toodled up her tree to take a nap and ignore the new noisy neighbor. It was cute to watch the curious interaction between the two (well, Idgie was more annoyed than curious).
Jen W.
Keeper II, Mammals

Monday, February 2 
Today, we started the weaning process! Mei Lun and Mei Huan are at that age where they are ready to become sub-adults and live on their own. I, for one, am excited about this milestone. I started working as a giant panda intern only a few weeks before Lun Lun surprised us by giving birth to "twin" cubs, and I have been lucky enough to watch them grow up and learn how to be pandas. I was there when they started walking and when they were healthy and strong enough to both be placed in Lun's care. I was there the first time they went out on exhibit in the dayroom and again when they ventured outside in their outdoor habitats for the first time. I have been so lucky to be a part of all the previous milestones, and I am ready to watch as they encounter one of the biggest ones yet. Much like sending your 18-year-old off to college, Mei Lun and Mei Huan are ready for what is next, and so is their mom.  Lun Lun has done all she can to prepare them for what is to come. I expect Lun Lun will feel some relief when she no longer has two little munchkins climbing all over her. She can eat and sleep without being interrupted. 

The weaning is a three-week process. In the first week, Lun and the cubs will be separated for a total of six hours. Keepers will be closely monitoring both cubs’ and mom's reactions when they are separated and when they are reunited. Extra enrichment will be provided for the cubs to keep them occupied. They will likely still nurse when they are reunited, but we will be watching to make sure they are eating and sleeping normally. In the second week, Lun and the cubs will spend nights separated and reunite in the morning. Mei Lun, our little mamma's-girl, will probably notice that Lun is not nearby before Mei Huan does. Mei Huan tends to sleep much of the morning, and when she is asleep, she is asleep! This weaning process will be a little bit different than the process was for our previous cubs. Mei Lun and Mei Huan will have each other to keep company and partake in play sessions. We are hoping this will make the process a little easier for the girls. We expect to hear a lot more vocalizations from the cubs looking for mom, but we keepers will do everything we can to make sure this is a smooth process. This is a natural process for many different species, and the girls are ready.  
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, January 30
Mei Lun and Mei Huan were so playful this morning! They spent most of the morning wrestling, gamboling, and hanging from the structure in their outdoor habitat. The nice thing about having two cubs is that the kids have a playmate of the same size and interest in play. I know Lun Lun's previous cubs enjoyed playing with her, and she was wonderful with them, but playing with your mom is not the same as playing with your sibling. Mom is always bigger and stronger, and she usually decides when it's time to play and when playtime is over.  However, a sibling is almost always willing to wrestle or can be convinced to do so fairly easily. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are lucky to have each other. 
Heather R. 
Keeper III, Carnivores

 

Wednesday, January 28 
​We are still offering the pandas rivercane bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea), which they are gobbling up at warp speeds ... except Yang Yang, who's being a little finicky (so dramatic that boy is!).  But Lun Lun loves rivercane, as do her little shadows.  Tuesday morning started like every other morning with our a.m. panda routine.  I set Lun and her munchkins up with a lot of bamboo and left them at it.  Lun Lun ate until her belly was full and then decided to play with the twins.  It's always fun to watch Lun Lun initiate play sessions with her cubs, and this was no different.  

 

But I forgot to think about the disaster area the dayroom would be left in following this play session between three bears. It took two keepers close to 40 minutes to clean up the scattered bamboo, shards and tiny flecks of feces!  Mom and cubs tumbled, chased, and rolled around the entire dayroom, and managed to crush every fecal ball into tiny pieces which then got mixed in with the mulch.  Oy! But all we had to do was remember watching the play session, and our grumbles quickly diminished as we finished the mid-morning clean.  Oh, those pandas ... 

Jennifer W.
Keeper II, Mammals 

Monday, January 26
Over the weekend, the pandas got the opportunity to become reacquainted with our large "squeeze,” which recently made its way back to the panda building. The squeeze is a large rolling enclosure that has metal bars around all sides, which allows us complete access to a panda for voluntary veterinary procedures. It sounds like it could be a somewhat scary object, but in reality, our pandas don't mind the squeeze. For Yang Yang and Lun Lun, the reappearance of the squeeze doesn't mean much. They're completely comfortable with it and are happy to sit in it for voluntary procedures such as ultrasounds. But if you've followed Mei Lun and Mei Huan's journey, you might remember that the squeeze was a favorite jungle gym for the cubs when they were smaller.  

The squeeze is located in a hallway between one of the dens and Dayroom Two. This means that all of the pandas have to pass through it when moving to and from this dayroom. The first couple of times the girls shifted through the squeeze over the weekend, they seemed the slightest bit unsure of the new addition. By the end of the day, however, they seemed to remember their old jungle gym and were difficult to shift through it because they were having so much fun playing in it!  They seemed a little confused when they found that they could no longer hide from Lun Lun underneath the squeeze, but pretty soon they were running and tumbling through the squeeze and generally making a big racket. I enjoyed watching them play, even if it did mean running behind on my routine a little!
Jennifer A. 
Keeper I, Mammals 

Friday, January 23
The other day, Lun Lun and the cubs were in Habitat One, and Mei Huan had her usual morning nap in her usual nap spot, which is on the edge of the pool in that particular exhibit. Lun Lun wandered over to Huan and gave her a little nudge with her head, causing a sleeping Mei Huan to roll over right into the moat. I know some of our guests were concerned, since it was quite a big drop. Mei Huan seemed startled at what had occurred, but she rolled right over to the storm drain nearby and went back to sleep. At the 11 a.m. feed, Mei Huan did not shift in, so we went out into the habitat and threw some biscuits her way to make sure she was acting normally. After finishing two biscuits, Mei Huan climbed out of the moat and shifted inside for some more yummy treats. 
 
We do not think this was an act of aggression on Lun Lun's part, as she will often "roughhouse" with her cubs in a playful way. It just so happened that this time Mei Huan was not in the best location. Panda cubs are much more sturdy than they look, however. In the wild, panda moms will hide their cubs up in the trees while they go out to forage for bamboo, leaving the possibility of a cub rolling over the wrong way and landing on the ground below. Cubs will also take many falls while learning how to climb trees. It's all a part of growing up!
Megan M. 
Seasonal Keeper 

Wednesday, January 14
Yesterday afternoon, once Lun Lun was finally finished eating her breakfast, she wanted to take a nap in the hammock as she likes to do. One problem: both cubs were in the hammock playing. Not a problem for Lun Lun! She just climbed in and got comfortable on top of Mei Lun's front end and Mei Huan's back end! What happened next was like a comedy routine. Mei Huan was able to fairly easily roll her way out of the hammock onto the floor. All we could see of Mei Lun was all four legs flailing in the air as she tried to worm her way out from under her mother. After a minute or so, Mei Lun managed to pull herself free and dropped onto the floor with her sister. Lun Lun snuggled into the hammock even more. Ah, but the cubs weren't giving up on the hammock so easily! Mei Lun climbed into the hammock again and pounced on her mother, and Mei Huan approached from the other side and pounced on both of them. Lun Lun initially pretended not to notice, but after a few minutes of both cubs wrestling on top of her, she slid out of the hammock to go sleep on the floor, while the cubs continued to play.

Disclaimer: No panda cubs were harmed in the production of this play session.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Friday, January 9
The Bamboo Team has cut a new species of bamboo for the pandas this week – rivercane (Arundinaria gigantea). Rivercane is a favorite of our pandas; however, they will only eat it under certain conditions. We have to have a very cold snap like the one we are having right now, and the rivercane must be cut when it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Obviously, we only offer river cane in January or February when our weather is typically the coldest. I think one of the reasons the pandas love it so much is because they rarely have it, so it's a bit of a treat for them.
 
We received the first cutting of rivercane on Wednesday, and I offered some to Yang Yang first because Lun Lun and the cubs were sleeping. He was quite pleased to have it. Lun Lun was up instantly – she smelled the new bamboo and wanted some for herself! When I brought Lun Lun in to feed her, Mei Lun and Mei Huan followed her in. All three immediately devoured the pieces I gave them. Afterwards, Mei Lun and Mei Huan sat and ate the leftovers for over half an hour (they would not shift back out into the dayroom with Lun Lun)! Once again, rivercane has been a hit. One can only hope that it lasts! 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, January 7
It has been really rainy in Atlanta for the last couple of weeks. This means that the outdoor habitats have been incredibly muddy and unfavorable for our giant pandas, not to mention the fact that our giant pandas just do not appreciate the rain. On Monday, the weather was nice enough that we were finally able to give Lun Lun and the girls access to one of the habitats for the first time in a few days. As with our previous cubs, Mei Huan spent much of the morning napping away in the moat of Habitat One near the drain. We're not sure why all of our cubs seem to gravitate to that spot for naps in that habitat, but it seems to be a favorite!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Monday, January 5
It has been several months since I last worked the panda routine, so I have missed watching the cubs transition into bamboo-eating machines. Not only was I blown away at how huge they are, but I was also surprised at how much they have learned since late summer. The cubs have improved their shifting abilities by leaps and bounds, so much so that at least one cub shifts inside at every mealtime. They are eating a lot of bamboo and are doing so with great ability. These little girls sure are growing up fast! And what about their parents? Lun Lun and Yang Yang seem pretty much the same as when I last saw them, but I am excited to see them again too!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, January 2
Happy New Year! We panda keepers have had a very eventful 2014! We have watched Mei Lun and Mei Huan grow and thrive. We had to prepare for and say goodbye to Xi Lan and Po when they moved to China. We expect 2015 to be just as busy. Lun Lun will wean Mei Lun and Mei Huan soon and then will likely go through another estrus period afterwards. Breeding season and cubbing season are always the busiest times for us. And, who knows?  Lun Lun may have her sixth cub this year! Mei Lun and Mei Huan are progressing nicely with their training, and we hope this year they will continue to learn new behaviors. Stay tuned here to stay up-to-date on the goings-on of Zoo Atlanta's pandas in 2015.
Heather R. 
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, December 29 
You may have noticed Lun Lun on PandaCam with only one cub alongside her. This is because Mei Huan has decided sleeping in is more important than going out on exhibit. There have been several days where she did not wake up until after 10 a.m., and on Christmas Day, she slept until 12:30! This has happened several times before, but when the girls were younger, we would have to shift Lun into the space where the cub fell asleep so she could show her youngsters where to go. More and more, they are shifting without Lun's guidance. While pandas are not considered "sub-adults" until they are weaned from their mothers, some of us keepers have already graduated Mei Huan to this title. She is usually an expert shifter and has even shifted to our furthest habitat by herself a couple of times; sometimes she sleeps in until the second feeding. This speaks to their personalities, as Mei Huan is more of the explorer of the two. Mei Lun is usually Lun's shadow, so she has not shifted very far away from mom yet. However, Mei Lun beats Mei Huan when it comes to eating bamboo. Both girls are growing up so fast!
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Monday, December 22
This weekend we celebrated the holidays at the Zoo. All the animals received special holiday-themed enrichment, and the pandas were no exception. They received papier mache ornaments, themed paper chains, wreaths and gift boxes. The cubs of course enjoyed tearing apart the paper chains. They also enjoyed helping Lun Lun rip apart the boxes and the ornaments to get the goodies that were hidden inside. At one point, Mei Huan had her whole face inside an ornament! Yang carefully ripped open his ornaments. It looked as though he opened them in such a way that he could use them as plates to hold his goodies. His gift box on the other hand, he seemed to tear apart for the sake of tearing it apart. Even after the biscuits fell out, he was still ripping at the box. All in all, it seemed as though the pandas enjoyed their biscuit hunt and tearing open their presents. I know I enjoyed watching them.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Wednesday, December 17
We do a lot of training here at Zoo Atlanta to help with basic husbandry practices as well as any veterinary procedures that are needed. All training is completely voluntary on the animal's part, so it is important to make training sessions positive experiences. With that in mind, it makes sense that the animal would need to be motivated to want to train with his/her keepers, whether it be for a yummy treat or verbal praise. Giant pandas are very food-motivated. They will pretty much do anything for a biscuit! Both Lun Lun and Yang Yang know more than 25 behaviors, and we have already started training the cubs on basic behaviors. Some behaviors, like shifting, they learn from watching mom Lun Lun. The cubs are just as motivated to get their biscuit reward, so while we don't always have their undivided attention (bamboo is very distracting), they seem to enjoy participating in training sessions. 
 
Idgie, our red panda, is not as food-motivated as the giant pandas are. She does enjoy grapes and blueberries as special treats, but being an arboreal (tree-dwelling) animal, she does not always climb down to participate. When she does come down from her coveted sleeping spot, she also seems to enjoy participating in sessions. Idgie knows about six behaviors, and we are working on training her on a few more.  
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Monday, December 15
One of our enrichment categories is food enrichment. Saturday afternoon, I gave Yang Yang a frozen sweet potato and Lun Lun a frozen apple, since Lun does not like sweet potato. It took Yang Yang about 15 minutes to eat his delicious treat. I always get a kick out of their reactions to frozen produce. They eat it as if it will disappear if they don't devour it as quickly as possible. Both cubs heard us throw the frozen pieces of produce from the berm into the outdoor habitat, and both immediately stopped what they were doing to investigate. Mei Lun climbed right up Lun's chest to smell the apple. When Lun dropped a piece of the apple into her lap, Mei Lun picked it up with her teeth and began gnawing on it. Neither cub has really taken to apple yet, but I suspect that Mei Lun was a bit surprised by the cold feeling on her teeth. She quickly put it down and began looking for biscuits. 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, December 12
Mei Lun and Mei Huan are eating so much bamboo! They are really enjoying the nice leafy Yellow Groove that our Bamboo Team is cutting right now. Just like their elder brothers and sister did, they like to eat biscuits with their bamboo: eat a biscuit, munch on some bamboo, eat another biscuit, and so on. Both girls are over 80 pounds now! They really do grow up so fast!
Heather R. 
Carnivore Keeper III

 
Wednesday, December 3
There are times where I'm quite convinced Lun Lun is thankful she has twins. Those times include when she'd rather be eating bamboo and they'd rather be playing. I haven't been in pandas a lot lately, so I've missed quite a few of these rough-and-tumble wrestling matches between Mei Lun and Mei Huan. But on Tuesday, I was lucky enough to watch the girls bulldoze through each other, the bamboo, Mom, and anything else that stood in their way as they chased after each other playing Queen of the Climbing Structures in both dayrooms. It had started out with Mom in the hammock and both girls obnoxiously trying to play with her while she tried to eat bamboo. She eventually escaped, and the girls quickly realized that Mom wasn't having any of it and instead focused their energy on annoying each other. Several times Lun Lun, who was minding her own business eating, got caught in the middle of the "war," but she took it all in stride as always and just kept eating. The playtime lasted about 40 minutes, and both girls were panting after it was all said and done from the nonstop running and climbing. I believe all of this energy came from the half of a banana (their daily allotment minus what they steal from Mom) I have given each cub at their 11 a.m. feed. This is only a preview of the many play sessions we'll all have the joy of witnessing as these girls grow up.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores
 
Monday, December 1
I expect this week in PandaLand will be somewhat challenging, as we are starting to wean Mei Lun and Mei Huan from their bottles. We have been supplementing the cubs with milk replacer since they were about 3 months old. Both Mei Lun and Mei Huan  enjoy having their bottles, and they anticipate it every morning when the keeper arrives and the lights are turned on. Since this has become routine for most of their lives, they may be a little confused and cranky when they do not receive a bottle. We have seen both cubs nursing less frequently, so hopefully they will adjust well. We’ll soon begin the weaning process from Lun Lun, so we decided to wean the cubs from their bottles first. Weaning is  a natural process and is usually done around 18 months of age for pandas. During the weaning from their bottles, they will still have the option to nurse from Lun Lun. As an animal behavior enthusiast, I am very interested to see how the cubs adjust. 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, November 26
We have recently increased the cubs' diet to keep in line with the biscuit and produce amounts we have offered our other cubs at the same age. In addition to the increased amounts, we added a small amount of banana to their produce. Both cubs have taken Lun Lun's banana, so we knew they would eat it. As you may know, giant pandas are very picky when it comes to food items, especially unfamiliar food. For example, Mei Huan is eating her sweet potatoes with no problem, but Mei Lun still does not like sweet potatoes. Offering banana gives Mei Lun another option, and she likes it. We have tried many things to entice Mei Lun to eat sweet potatoes, but no luck yet. Perhaps she will be like her mother and never eat them. If so, she will be Lun Lun's first cub to not eat sweet potato. 
Heather R. 
Carnivore Keeper III

Monday, November 24
The cubs' training has been coming along nicely. The training that we do here at the Zoo is all completely voluntary and is positive reinforcement-based. They don't have to participate if they don't want to, and they get rewarded for doing behaviors correctly. The behaviors that we train are all so we can better care for them. We can see all parts of their bodies and do basic veterinary care with them willingly participating. I am currently training the cubs "up," "target," and "right paw." 
 
It is quite interesting to compare the two in their learning styles and personalities since they are the same age and learning the same behaviors. Mei Lun is the typical cub. She'll do one behavior and receive her reward; then she'll spend the next minute or so eating bamboo or finding other distractions. She has even fallen asleep during a couple of training sessions! When she does the behaviors, however, she usually does them pretty well. Mei Huan is generally more like the adults, although this has been changing a bit lately. Usually she is all about the biscuits and will do almost anything for them. Lately, however, she has been focusing a bit too much on the biscuits and not always on what I am asking of her. It sometimes takes me asking twice, maybe even three times, for her to do certain things. When she does the behaviors, they are not always done in the prettiest way, but they are done quickly. It'll be interesting to see who picks up on newer, more difficult behaviors as they start getting older and more experienced with training. 
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Friday, November 22
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have a very important milestone coming up before too long: weaning from Lun Lun! I know that weaning can be a bittersweet subject for our blog readers. However, weaning is something that all mammal youngsters must go through for normal development. In the wild, giant panda mothers often just go off foraging one day and do not return or have to forcefully chase away their cubs. Our weaning process is slightly less dramatic. We use a three-week “step-wise” protocol to slowly acclimate the cubs and Lun Lun to gradually spending time apart. Lun Lun is always ready for her cubs to be weaned, and I imagine this time will be no different. We also expect these cubs to adjust to weaning fairly easily as they have each other for company. Both cubs are eating bamboo very well, and we rarely see them nursing from Lun Lun while we are here observing them. Most of the cub feces we find consists almost entirely of bamboo as well. Stay tuned for more updates! 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, November 17
You may have noticed that we put the hammock back up in Dayroom One yesterday. While I see the hammock in there all the time, I have never actually had the pleasure of putting it up. By pleasure, I actually mean pain in the behind! The straps of the hammock need to wrap around the branches of the structure in just the right place in order for it to be secure and line up with all the holes. On top of that, I had to use all my strength in order to get the bolts tight enough to hold our bears. I'm confident I will be sore tomorrow! While Lun Lun enjoys sleeping in the hammock, she also goes to the bathroom in it quite often. For this reason, we do need to take it out and clean it every once in a while. Another reason we will take it out of what our panda fans have labeled the "hammock dayroom” is to change the environment a little bit for enrichment purposes. We are constantly working on new projects to enrich our pandas and there are many things that can go on the structure besides the hammock. Our latest intern created a firehose contraption specifically designed to hang across the square-shaped structure. In introducing new enrichment items, we have to observe their behavior with it at least three times before they can have it unsupervised or overnight to make sure it is safe for them. Both Mei Lun and Mei Huan have had a lot of fun with this new enrichment. In fact, one of our fans posted a video on the Zoo’s Facebook page. Check it out! 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper
 
Wednesday, November 12
Ninety-nine percent of a panda's diet is bamboo - unless you're Zoo Atlanta's adult male Yang Yang. Then you might have an affinity for browse, specifically mulberry. He's such a weirdo. He was finished with his bamboo before we were ready to service his exhibit, so I decided to toss down a large piece of mulberry to see if he'd entertain himself with it.  
 
As you can see from the pictures, he definitely enjoyed the mulberry! There was hardly anything left when we finally brought him inside around 11 a.m. I wonder if either of his daughters will take after him?
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, November 10
Since the weather is staying consistently cool, we are trying to keep Lun Lun and the cubs outside for longer periods of time. In about two months, Mei Lun and Mei Huan will be weaned from Lun Lun, and we will not have Lun's help with convincing the little munchkins to come inside at the end of the day. Beginning with Lun and Yang's first cub, Mei Lan, Lun Lun has been trained to grab her cub by the scruff  and give him/her a little push so that the cubs know where to go when we are trying to shift them somewhere. This has proven to be very helpful when the cubs are too big for keepers to handle or share a space with, such as they are now. 
 
Both Mei Lun and Mei Huan are over 36 kilograms now and are bigger than their older siblings were at this age. Keeping the girls out in in the outdoor habitats is breaking their routine, so it has not necessarily made for happy pandas. It is a transition period and can therefore be a little unsettling for the cubs, not to mention that Lun has also become accustomed to being brought in after lunch and also needs to adjust to this change. Even with a fresh pile of bamboo, Lun Lun will let us know that she is ready to come inside by walking around the habitat, usually with Mei Lun following close behind. The girls will adjust, however. They are learning quickly that shifting through a door usually means a yummy biscuit is waiting for them, and now that they are consuming more bamboo, they have more distractions.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper 

Wednesday, November 5
On Tuesday, everyone might have caught a fun little interaction between one Mei Huan and one Yang Yang. There is a large panel that separates both outdoor habitats. This panel has an outer solid metal door, and a second mesh panel on the other side. We use this area for training demonstrations; the solid panel can be opened revealing the mesh panel. Where the locking mechanism is located, there is a small opening where two panda noses could have the opportunity to sniff each other out. And that's exactly what happened between daughter and Dad. Both seemed to really enjoy checking each other out through this tiny opening, with Mei Huan getting all hyper and Yang Yang trying to self-anoint himself with her smell. We caught the action on PandaCam, so hopefully you were able to tune in and watch the entertaining interaction as well! Once the twins are weaned from Mom, we will eventually have the option to "howdy" Yang and his daughters as we have done in the past with all of our sub-adults and adults. We do this because in the wild, pandas do occasionally cross paths, but mostly because Yang Yang really seems to enjoy having a panda buddy he can see, but can't physically get to. If the girls don't seem to enjoy the interaction with Dad, it'll stop... but I highly doubt that'll be the case!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores
 
Friday, October 31
I have noticed lately that the girls have spent a lot more time playing and running around than sleeping. Since they are just youngsters, it is natural for them to spend much of the day sleeping. A morning in one of the habitats is usually enough to make them pass out on the structure for the remainder of the day. The last few days, however, both Mei Lun and Mei Huan have had a lot of energy and have been ready to exert it. We will usually put Lun Lun and the cubs out in one of the habitats until their 1:30 feeding, and then we bring them all into a dayroom for the rest of the day. We do this because the cubs can be so unpredictable when it comes to shifting. If one of them is asleep, it could be a very long time until we can get that cub up and ready to make the trek onto the exhibit or off exhibit. In fact, just the other day, you may have noticed that only Lun Lun and Mei Huan were out in Habitat Two. This is because Mei Lun fell asleep in one of the dens, and we just couldn't keep her awake long enough to shift out with mom and sister. Since the cubs are not quite comfortable in the habitats, they are very active, spending much of their time exploring or following Lun around. Just the other day, I watched Mei Lun follow Lun around all morning, and I made a comment to my fellow keeper that as soon as we brought them in, Mei Lun was going to crash. I was wrong. Both cubs were very active chasing each other and jumping from the structure to the hammock. It was quite entertaining to watch. You can tell that the girls are getting a bit older and are ready to spend more time playing and eating bamboo.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Monday, October 27
Our Halloween-themed event, Boo at the Zoo, took place over the last two weekends here at the Zoo. While the event is geared toward children and families, the animals also got in on the fun with holiday-themed enrichment. The pandas received a number of themed surprises including colored paper chains, jack-o'-lanterns, fabric ghosts, and bobbing for apples. The paper chains, as always, were a hit with the cubs as they are easy to carry and fun to tear apart. Yang Yang even got in on the paper chain action by ripping his pieces off the structure. The jack-o'-lanterns contained biscuits, so of course they all enjoyed those. Well, that was the case until the cubs dropped theirs and it busted open. 
 
The adults bobbed for their apples. Bobbing for apples panda-style is a little different from the way a person may do it. Pandas aren't big fans of getting their faces wet, so they used their paws. Lun Lun is pretty much an expert at bobbing for apples. Every time her paw hit the water she pulled an apple slice out. Yang had a little more trouble; however, he was able to get every slice out of the water. This was the first time the cubs had seen bobbing for apples, so they were unsure what to make of it. 
 
The pandas also received ghosts. The ghosts were just pieces of fabric wrapped around some hay with faces painted on them. Yang again knocked his off the structure. The cubs went crazy for the ghosts, especially Mei Huan. We had ghosts of two different sizes, small and large. The small ones were fun for a minute or so, but the large one was like the best thing ever. Mei Lun discovered it first. She knocked it down and chewed on it for a couple minutes but then decided other things needed her attention. Then Mei Huan found it. She carried it, she chewed on it, she tried tearing it. I even saw her anointing herself with it. This went on sporadically throughout the day.
(Photo by Shauna D.)
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores


Wednesday, October 22
Lun Lun and her munchkins got to spend most of the day outside on Wednesday. It was perfect panda weather, which Lun Lun took advantage of as she gobbled up the bamboo we gave her. Mei Huan took the opportunity to get a little sun and a morning siesta. She slept all day (in the bright sun, silly girl) until we brought them into a dayroom in the afternoon! Mei Lun didn't stop moving all morning. She just toodled around, bugging her mom and her sister. When we finally brought them inside, we all assumed Mei Lun would crash as she hadn't taken a nap all morning. Nope. She simply refueled on fresh bamboo and some leafeater biscuits she stole from Mom and commenced to tumble around the dayroom with her sister in a very active wrestling match! Oh, to be young and have that much energy... 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, October 20
Although we don't have any place to put it on exhibit, we have a swing for the pandas that we can hang in their off-exhibit area. Last week we put it in one of the hallways. I believe this was the first time the cubs got to see the swing, so it was a good choice for environmental enrichment. The cubs seemed to be afraid of it at first. Mei Lun would not shift into the hallway at first, but then she ventured in and climbed on. It was a while before I saw Mei Huan interact with the swing because she is usually asleep on the structure at closing time, but she also seemed to enjoy swinging back and fourth. The downside of it is that now we have a definite distraction when we want to shift the girls through the hallway. Do you know who else likes the swing? Yang Yang! It is relatively rare to see our adults interact with enrichment that does not involve food, but the swing always brings out the kid in Yang Yang. He will climb up and sit on it and rock back and fourth. That boy always surprises me. He is definitely more social than Lun Lun is, but again, if it does not involve food, our adults will usually simply ignore it.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper 

Friday, October 17
The cubs are becoming more active during the day than they have been in the past. Just a couple of months ago, the cubs rarely woke up to register that Lun Lun had left and that we keepers were cleaning up around them. Now, they are increasingly hungry as they are transitioning from primarily Lun Lun's milk to bamboo. Not only do we see the cubs eating much more bamboo, but we can also tell from their feces that they are eating more bamboo and consuming less milk. The nutrients from the bamboo do not sustain the cubs as long as mother's milk does, so they have to eat more frequently. At least one cub (usually Mei Lun), if not both, will shift in with Lun Lun now when we bring her inside to clean up and offer fresh bamboo. They have learned that coming inside means getting a few biscuits and a quick bamboo snack and that a fresh pile of bamboo will be waiting for them when they go back outside.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, October 15
Since the weather is getting cooler, we have been putting the pandas in the outdoor habitats for much of the day. As an animal behavior enthusiast, I enjoy watching the cubs explore an area they are unfamiliar with and seeing how they adjust. Since they have been spending a lot of time in the dayrooms, Mei Lun and Mei Huan are quite comfortable and even have their designated sleeping spots. Outside in the habitats, they are a little less familiar and don't seem to be as comfortable just yet. Mei Huan seems to be adjusting a little bit better and has found a lounging spot on the rocks in front of the pool. Mei Lun seems to be taking a little bit longer to adjust. She isn't quite comfortable going to sleep out there yet and mostly just bothers mom and follows her around. This is normal for their personalities. Mei Huan is usually the first to go exploring, whereas Mei Lun likes to stay by mom's side and make sure everything is safe before venturing off to explore the unknown. Sooner or later, Mei Lun will get more comfortable being outside and will find a nice place to rest in each of the outdoor habitats.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, October 1
I'm sure you know by now that enrichment is a major aspect of zoo animal husbandry. It is provided daily to all animals housed at Zoo Atlanta, and we usually try to give the animals something natural to mimic situations in the wild. We have an Enrichment Team that works hard to plan and provide enrichment items for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays. This past Saturday we celebrated Play the Animal Way, which is a special enrichment day where we are able to give the animals non-natural enrichment items and their favorite yummy treats in order to give them a little something extra. 

For the pandas, we made a list of specialty items to give to them at each feeding.These items included pumpkins (carved by yours truly), sugarcane-cicles, papier mache panda-shaped boxes with biscuits inside, bamboo "flute" feeders, blocks of ice with their favorite scents, colorful paper-linked chains, and wreaths. I hope many of our readers were able to tune in to PandaCam to watch the excitement! This was Mei Lun and Mei Huan's first enrichment day, and it seems like they quite enjoyed the extra biscuits. We placed the pumpkin on top of the structure. The girls played with it for a while until knocking it off. It went tumbling down into the moat, smashing into several pieces. My favorite was the sugarcane-cicle. Since this is both Lun Lun and Yang Yang's favorite treat, they worked long and hard to remove the sugar cane from within the block of ice. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are just starting to realize how delicious sugarcane is, and they were both fighting over mom's treats. They sure didn't get much sleep with all the excitement and goodies.

Idgie, our red panda, also got some of her favorite treats. In the morning we gave her one of her favorite snacks, grapes. We placed her produce inside a pumpkin, and we decorated her exhibit with her favorite scents and paper-linked chains. In the afternoon she received a wreath and a hard-boiled egg. I don't think Idgie was too thrilled about her produce being placed in a pumpkin. She prefers easy access to her breakfast. She did, however, interact with the colorful paper chains we placed in her tree. She usually is not quite ready for dinner when we bring it over to her, so we will have to see how she enjoyed her egg in the morning. 

Enrichment is one of my favorite parts of my job. Not only does is stimulate the animal in many different ways, but it also allows us to break routine a little bit and improves the animals’ well-being. On top of that, it is wildly entertaining for me, and I just love it! This was my first Play the Animal Way, and while it was a busy day, I loved every minute of it.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Friday, September 19
It was just over a year ago that Idgie joined our collection and we brought her over to the muntjac exhibit to introduce her to her new habitat. I was only an intern at that point, but I was so excited to get to work with a new species. I have always been really interested in animal behavior, so I was excited to see how Marvin, our muntjac, and Idgie would acclimate to each other. I was also curious to see how Idgie would react to her new environment, filled with new smells, plants and keepers. As the intern, I was  tasked with watching her from the public viewing area to make sure she didn't seem too overly stressed.  I remember her walking around the exhibit and scent marking every couple of steps. Red panda scent marking is just about the cutest thing! A year later I still enjoy watching Idgie interact with her environment. Unlike our giant pandas, Idgie is a little more unpredictable in her behavior. She doesn't follow a "routine" the way Yang Yang and Lun Lun do, so, I always enjoy visiting her to see what she is up to.

This Saturday, September 20th is International Red Panda Day. Come by and enjoy special activities, a keeper talk, and learn more about the red panda.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, September 17
Lately, Mei Lun has become somewhat difficult to shift. Mei Lun knows what shifting is and how to do it, but she just sometimes has other things she would rather do. For example, yesterday she fell asleep in one of the off-exhibit dens while waiting for the Wild Encounter participants and slept there until after lunch. If she is moving through an area and comes across a stray bamboo leaf or shard, she would rather stop, pick it up, and chew on it than continue on her way. Mei Lun reminds me very much of Mei Lan at this age. She does what she wants, when she wants, and she's never in a hurry about it. 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

 
Monday, September 15
One category of enrichment we use here is called environmental, in which we change up something in the animals' environments, whether it is moving a log or adding a new place to sit or even a bed of hay. Also part of environmental enrichment is browse. Browse is any part of an edible plant that isn't normally in their existing habitat. The other day we offered the giant pandas mulberry browse, a common plant on Zoo grounds. Lun Lun, as expected, did nothing with it. It is not bamboo so therefore deserves no attention. The cubs both manipulated it around a bunch and gnawed on it a bit to discover what it was. But after this "discovery" session, they dropped their pieces and ignored them the rest of the day. Yang Yang, on the other hand, actually ate his piece. Imagine Yang, the panda who sometimes refuses biscuits from a new biscuit bag because they are slightly different from the old batch, actually eating something that isn't bamboo. It was quite surprising the first time it happened, especially because giant pandas are such specialists when it comes to their diets. When he was eating it, he tried to culm it like the bamboo and peel off the outer bark layer. However, it did not quite cooperate like the bamboo and just break off. Because the bark is softer, the strip just kept going as far as his arms would stretch. He finally just peeled it like we would a banana and ate it that way. They constantly find new ways to surprise us.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, September 11
You may know that we offer daily enrichment to all our animals housed at the Zoo, and this enrichment can be stimulating environmentally, manipulatively, or socially. We also offer food enrichment and enrichment to stimulate their senses. Yesterday was manipulative enrichment, so I went into our enrichment shed in search of something to offer Lun Lun and Yang Yang. While our pandas love to be hand-fed, we often try to give them something that will make them work a bit for their food, as they would in the wild. I got a green ball with holes out for Yang Yang and put some wood-wool inside. I then added a few of his biscuits and a whole banana. It was a lighter ball, so Yang sat down and held it above his head and let the biscuits fall straight into his mouth. The banana proved more difficult, so he started throwing the ball around the den trying to make sure he got every last bite.

I found a toy to put Lun Lun's biscuits in, and I was super-excited because it was an enrichment item I had not seen before. It was an old piece of dried-up bamboo culm on a screw, and it attached to another plank of wood. This feeding device is meant to be attached to the mesh in a den and acts sort of like a pinwheel. Either end of the culm had holes drilled into it, so when the panda spun the culm the biscuits would fall out. I gave it to Lun Lun when I offered her her overnight bamboo, and she immediately and effortlessly ripped the culm to pieces instead of spinning it as I imagined she would. RIP spinning feeder toy. I guess tearing it apart was easier than having the biscuits fall out. It did not even cross my mind that Lun would break this device, as I assumed keepers had used it with her before. It just goes to show how strong these bears really are. 
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Wednesday, September 10
Yang Yang turned 17 yesterday! Our big boy got to celebrate his big day with the usual fanfare of devoted fans, a hand-painted box with treats and an original ice cake designed by his keepers. Yang Yang loves to play with big blocks of ice, so this was the inspiration behind the cake design this year. It wasn't nearly as complex as cakes I've constructed in the past, but he loved it just the same! The cake was made of 15 frozen blocks of ice: nine on the bottom tier, four for the middle tier and one large block of ice filled with diluted apple juice and sugarcane. The other blocks all had different food coloring inside. In typical Yang style, he quickly knocked off all of the tiers and then systematically started destroying everything. We had also drizzled cinnamon over the entire cake, and once he got a whiff of the cinnamon he proceeded to roll around and on the colored ice blocks. And, of course, this resulted in a multicolored panda! The food coloring will wear off soon enough, but for a day or so, we'll have a colorful boy in the building. I hope everyone was able to tune into PandaCam and watch!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, September 8
The cubs' different personalities definitely show during training sessions. Each primary panda keeper has a list of assigned behaviors to train the cubs. The behavior I am working on at the moment is "Up," in which the pandas put their front paws on the mesh in the indoor holding space so that we can get a look at their bellies and paws. When training the cubs, we train them separately from the other two, Lun and the other cub, in order to prevent competition between them. When Mei Lun is being trained, she is like a typical cub. Everything is entertaining other than the trainer. The bamboo that she has had access to the entire night is suddenly amazing. I will ask for a behavior, and when she does it, she will get rewarded with a biscuit, will then go to gnawing on a piece of bamboo for a minute, and will then come back for another behavior, and so on. So training with Mei Lun takes a while. When training with Mei Huan, on the other hand, she is great. She is usually very focused on the trainer and does not take many bamboo breaks, if at all. Training sessions with Mei Huan are usually pretty quick. Of course they are still cubs, so this is not always the case. Sometimes the roles are reversed. But this is what I have noticed of them lately.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, September 4
I've always been told that there is nothing wrong with a little sibling rivalry. Do you think this rivalry exists among our animal counterparts? Not only do pandas sleep in the strangest of ways, but our two cubs also have claimed their "spots" up on the structure in either dayroom. Mei Lun has her spot in Dayroom One, and Mei Huan has claimed her spot in Dayroom Two. When the girls are in Dayroom One, Mei Lun likes to sit on the left side of the structure curled up in the perch of the Y-branch. When the girls are in Dayroom Two, Mei Huan likes to sleep on the right side of the structure where two branches sit parallel to the ground. If either cub is in the other's spot, neither will hesitate to wiggle her way and claim her favorite place to nap. I've seen this on multiple occasions. One cub will climb over the other and sit on top of her sister. Every few seconds the cub trying to reclaim her spot will wiggle some more and re-situate herself until the cub in her spot gets the hint and finds another place to sleep.  The girls will usually verbalize as well.  The cub being ousted from her resting spot will usually "chirp" at her sister as if to say "leave me alone." It is always entertaining to see the extent to which they will go to be comfortable in their favorite spots.
Megan M.
Seasonal Keeper

Tuesday, September 2
While summertime can mean fussier pandas being more picky with bamboo, it can also mean more sleep! Yang Yang loves to sleep in during the summer and not wake up until after 8 a.m.  And once he does wake up, he makes all sorts of adorable "morning" noises and yawns as he stretches, scratches, and sleepily peers around while determining if he's ready to get up. Quite often during the summer, the pandas will also take nice, long naps during the day once they've eaten to their hearts’ (or stomachs’) desire. On Monday, the keeper staff went off grounds for lunch, leaving Yang Yang and Lun Lun happily eating fresh bamboo. When we came back about an hour later, Yang was already zonked out (Lun was still stuffing her face). This is typical panda behavior, and lately they've been sleeping until around 2 p.m. But our big boy decided that he was just too comfy and/or too sleepy and slept until 4 p.m.!  Naps have lasted this long before, but it's been quite a while. Once he woke up, and after a few minutes of scratching/grooming, he was quite clear in letting us know he was in need of refueling.
Jen W.
Carnivore Keeper II

Tuesday, August 26
When the pandas are not eating their bamboo very well, we keepers will do what we call a biscuit feeding with them. This means that the pandas get rewarded for getting bamboo with biscuits. Lately, Lun Lun has been very picky with the bamboo, so we have been doing biscuit feedings with her every afternoon. Mei Lun quickly caught on that mom was getting biscuits from the window in the keeper door, so she frequently joins Lun Lun for these feedings. However, this afternoon, Mei Huan wanted in on the action too! So both cubs and Lun Lun participated in a biscuit feeding this afternoon. It was kind of difficult feeding all three together from the keeper window and they kept shoving each other out of the way, but overall it was a lot of fun for me and I think for the pandas, too. 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

 

Monday, August 25
The cubs are officially beginning to consume bamboo! We have all begun to take notice of the increased amount of time and energy they put into playing with bamboo these days, and it turns out, for good reason. We have noticed an increase in the bamboo "carnage" left behind when cubs get hold of bamboo. Pieces that are greatly gnawed on but not quite broken. Pieces that have been chewed to bits but are still too tough to consume. And, of course, missing leaves. The last one is a bit tricky as Lun Lun eats leaves as well. However, just the other day while cleaning up, I noticed something different in a cub feces. Bamboo leaves! They have actually started eating and swallowing pieces of bamboo! They grow up so quickly.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, August 21
Hello, all! This is my very first update, as I just joined the Zoo Atlanta team last week as a seasonal keeper. My year-long internship with the pandas ended in April, so after three months away from the black-and-whites, it was so exciting to come back and see them. Boy did those cubs grow! I checked in on PandaCam every so often, but seeing them in person after a few months sent a shock to my system. They are still adorable, of course, and so playful these days. The other day, I watched Mei Huan attempt pull-ups on the pole of the spinning Zep barrel in DayRoom 1. Unfortunately, she ended up covered in mulch. I'm sure she will attempt to "PR" next time we give them this enrichment item. I'm glad to be back in pandas, and I am excited to see these munchkins get even bigger. 
Megan M.
Seasonal keeper

Tuesday, August 19
As we've mentioned in previous updates, Mei Lun and Mei Huan are usually pretty crazy in the mornings because they know they're going to get biscuits and a bottle. We use this time as a perfect opportunity to start their training regime. Each of the three primary panda keepers have a list of equally hard and easy behaviors to train the girls to perform. Each behavior is asking for a different body part to be presented, or to ask them to stand up or lie down. Each keeper will be training the same behavior with both girls. The girls are catching on very quickly!

Before we train them, we always offer their bottles. They usually don't calm down until after this. This morning, both girls simultaneously burped really loudly after guzzling down their formula. I think it's the first time I've heard such a loud burp from an animal! These girls continually crack me up as they grow!
 
Speaking of growing, the girls' parents will be celebrating their 17th birthdays really soon!  Lun Lun's birthday is Monday, August 25, and Yang Yang's is Tuesday, September 9. Both will be getting the same type of ice cake, but what it will look like will be a surprise to everyone! Suffice to say they've never gotten a birthday cake like this! Stay tuned for more information on their birthday festivities.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Thursday, August 14
The past two mornings, the cubs have slept in late. Mei Huan did not get up until 9 a.m. this morning! Sleeping later is typical of pandas during the summer months. Yang Yang wakes up late every day right now. However, it is unusual for the cubs to sleep in. They are always eager for their biscuits and formula first thing in the morning. Lun Lun also rarely sleeps in. She is a very busy mom and has too much eating to do!  
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Thursday, August 7
I was walking by one of the dens Lun and the girls were in one day and did a double take, as all I saw was a ginormous mass of black-and-white fur. The girls were both nursing, and Lun was lying on her side resting. I snapped a picture because I found it humorous how for a moment I couldn't tell where one bear ended and another began! And it's only going to become more entertaining as the girls continue to grow and nurse. They will nurse until they are weaned from mom at around 1.5 years of age. Fortunately for Lun, as they begin to eat more and more bamboo, they will nurse less frequently.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores
 
Monday, August 4
The cubs are one step closer to becoming bamboo-eating adults! One of the girls lost a tooth last Monday! We were lucky to find it as it was so tiny, not to mention the fact that many animals just swallow their baby teeth. It must have come out while they were wrestling in the off-exhibit space, or else I don't think we would have noticed it in the mulch. The cubs' deciduous teeth are much smaller than their adult teeth, so this is a necessary step to being able to process the tough bamboo that they will one day consume. And just in case you were wondering, the tooth fairy put some biscuits under their pillows that night.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores
 
Tuesday, July 29
I love watching the cubs when they explore and manipulate enrichment items. You never quite know what will happen, even if it's an item they've had several times. Today, I enjoyed watching Mei Huan dangle by her hind feet from the climbing structure as she pulled a hanging jolly ball up into the structure with her. A couple of times, she appeared to intentionally drop it, let it swing for a minute, and then pull it up again. She really seemed to enjoy the workout!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals
 
Monday, July 28
Some of you may be unaware that the pandas are part of the Carnivore Department here at Zoo Atlanta. Some of us keepers that work with the pandas primarily are also trained to work with the meat-eating mammals at the Zoo and vice versa. I have spent the past week working only with the animals on that side of the department: lions, otters, sun bears, tigers binturong and fossa. I like all of the animals that I work with, but I did miss working with the pandas this week, so I was happy to be working with the pandas again on Saturday. 
 
One nice thing about being away from the panda building for a length of time is coming in first thing in the morning to the sweet smell of bamboo. I can't describe it and it may sound odd, but I really love that smell! Since I have worked with the pandas for so many years, I rarely notice the smells in the building anymore. However, whenever I come back from time away from the panda building, I really enjoy entering the building as the first person there and getting a whiff of all of the panda odors as I did this morning.  
 
It was also good to see the pandas again too, of course! The pandas are always eager to see us in the morning as well because we give them fresh bamboo and biscuits right away. It's a great feeling to really love your job!
Heather Baker Roberts 
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Friday, July 25
Although we’re not there yet, we’ve had some questions about the weaning process for the cubs. We’ll be able to provide more details as we get closer to the time when that will happen, but in the meantime, here’s some general information to tide you over. The earliest known weaning age for wild cubs is 18 months. Therefore, weaning at or after 18 months is recommended for zoo-housed giant pandas. We use a stepwise process of gradual weaning for cubs, which increases the amount of time mother and cub are separated over a period of about two weeks. This process is used to reduce stress in mother and cub, and to try to simulate how weaning is believed to occur in the wild. Weaning is a time of great change for most species, including humans, and so great care is taken to make the process as smooth as possible. Once the cubs are weaned from Lun Lun, they will likely be able to live together for quite some time, although every giant panda reacts to social housing in a different way. We will closely monitor the cubs’ behavior during and after weaning to ensure that they’re adjusting well to their new, more independent lives.
Megan Wilson, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Wednesday, July 23
We're always trying to come up with creative enrichment ideas for all of our critters at the Zoo. One theme of enrichment is dubbed "environmental.” With this theme, we are either adding or removing something in their environment, like logs for example. Overnight, Lun and her munchkins usually get one dayroom and access to an off-exhibit den because the kids never want to move during closing routine, and we want to give the three pandas as much room as we can. Tuesday evening, I switched things up and gave them "the loop.” We keepers believe this is the first time any panda has gotten this evening setup. One reason is because we haven't had this few pandas (two groups) in quite a few years, so we have the space! "The loop" consists of Dayroom One, an off-exhibit hallway connected to an off-exhibit den which is connected to a second hallway known as "the squeeze run,” which is connected to Dayroom Two. Whew! To finish off the loop, I opened the shift door that connects both dayrooms. I'm not sure how much fun the girls had, but in theory they had the option to literally run circles around most of the building all night! Both girls were asleep in Dayroom One the next morning, but I did find evidence that at some point overnight someone had been in Dayroom Two (some enrichment toys had been moved about). And in case you're wondering, Yang Yang was quite content having three off-exhibit dens all to himself away from the ruckus. 
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores
 
Tuesday, July 22
It's always nice to have a quiet day in pandas, and I think the dreary weather today contributed to that. We're still in the midst of summer bamboo season, so we're still trying to find the bamboo species the pandas are liking best. Today seemed to be a good day for bamboo, as we were able to find something that both Lun Lun and Yang Yang seemed to enjoy just enough to fill their bellies. Mei Lun and Mei Huan aren't old enough to care about bamboo species yet, but they did spend a lot of time munching on small pieces today!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals
 
Friday, July 18
With this bizarrely cool weather we have had the past couple of days, the pandas have been able to go outside for a few hours in the mornings. It has been a few months since it has been cool enough for the pandas to be comfortable outside so they have been in the indoor air-condition areas only. Thursday morning old pro Lun Lun went straight out to her bamboo. The cubs however, were a little more cautious. Even though they have been in the outdoor habitat before, it has been several months since and they were a little unsure. They both stuck their heads out the shift door to see this unfamiliar area. Mei Huan even stepped outside but stayed close to the door. After about 2 minutes of insecurity, they came back inside to the familiar. After about 20-30 minutes, they worked up the nerve to go back outside. Once out there, they explored the entire yard until they finally settled in their usual sleeping spots, Mei Lun on the top of the structure and Mei Huan at the top of the rock work leading to the moat.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Wednesday, July 16
It’s now been a couple of months since Xi Lan and Po made the big trip to China. As you recall, both giant pandas did very well during their journey and they were monitored closely by Zoo Atlanta staff. Upon their arrival, it was reported that the two reacted differently to their new surroundings. Specifically, Po was more unsure of her new home, while Xi Lan seemed relatively unfazed.  For those who know Po, this isn’t entirely surprising.  She’s always been a bit reactive to change.  She also developed relationships with the keepers at Zoo Atlanta much more slowly than the other cubs. This sort of difference is very common, just like it would be if two different people went to live in a new country. We’re in regular contact with the staff at the Research Base, and they have an incredible amount of experience with giant pandas.  Po is in great hands! As more details become available about Po’s new life in China (and Xi Lan’s, for that matter), we’ll be sure to pass them along.      
Megan Wilson, PhD
Curator of Mammals

 
Tuesday, July 15
Today was a big day in PandaLand! Our "little" munchkins turn 1 year old! For their big day, the twins got to enjoy their hand-crafted ice cakes and painted present boxes for a little while before Mom came out to check on things.  Each cub got their own 2-tiered birthday cake, which was made out of frozen water with food coloring and bamboo poles.  As a cake topper, each one had a frozen number "1" with bananas inside.  Also, each cake had the girls' initals made out of frozen water with food coloring and vanilla extract. In the painted gift boxes were two brand new jolly balls that the girls love to play with.  
 
I hope everyone enjoyed the festivities! We had a lot of fun watching the girls, trying to wrap our minds around the fact that they're a year old! The keepers' day didn't end there, though.  In the afternoon all three of us primary panda keepers participated in a Google Hangout with Darius, Carson and Layla from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta!  I hope you were able to listen in as the kids, their stuffed pandas, and viewers got to ask us all sorts of questions about the twins!  If you missed it, no worries - we'll have a link up real soon!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Tuesday, July 15 - Happy 1st Birthday Mei Lun and Mei Huan

The Giant Panda Twins Birthday Hangout

Tackling their birthday ice cakes!

 
 
 

Monday, July 14
The cubs had a pre-birthday celebration on Saturday. While their actual birthday is Tuesday, they received a couple hand-painted boxes with a few treats inside. As expected, the cubs were fast asleep when we put the boxes out. Even after several attempts to wake them, the cubs were still asleep, so much to Lun Lun's delight, she received the boxes and all of the treats inside. The cubs didn't notice the box pieces until several hours later when they finally woke up. Mei Huan was the first to get up and explore the boxes. She manipulated the boxes and chewed on them all to discover what they were. After a few more minutes, Mei Lun awoke to discover the boxes. On Tuesday, the cubs will be going on exhibit around 11 a.m., so that way the will be awake to explore their very first ice cakes before they melt.
Shauna 
Keeper I, Carnivores

Friday, July 11
You may have noticed recently that Lun Lun's belly is shaved again. We have been working on ultrasound training with her to practice for an upcoming training demonstration. Obviously, we are not looking for a pregnancy at this time. Lun Lun is such a pro at training, though, she always remembers her behaviors and knows exactly what to do. We usually do not shave Lun Lun's belly when she is nursing, but the cubs don’t seem to mind. It took two training sessions to shave her because her hair had grown so thick! It has been over a year since we have shaved her for an ultrasound. I’m always amazed at the behaviors we are able to train with the pandas. They can really do some advanced things such as the ultrasound and voluntary blood draw. We’re very lucky that the pandas are so smart and food motivated!
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Tuesday, July 8
Some days the cubs seem to sleep the day away. Other days the cubs seem to have endless amounts of energy. Today was an "Energizer Bunny" day. We usually keep the cubs inside for a few extra hours on Tuesday mornings because getting them to come back inside for their Wild Encounter is usually a pretty big challenge. Since the cubs were playful this morning, Jen gave them lots of "cub-sized" toys and vanilla scent to keep them enriched and occupied before their visitors arrived.

Both Mei Lun and Mei Huan spent several minutes anointing themselves with the vanilla. By the time they were finished, they both smelled so strongly of vanilla that they decided to anoint themselves with each other! The shenanigans didn't end there though. Mei Huan then decided to carry a small plastic dumbbell toy across the den and climbed up the mesh with it before dropping it to the ground, while Mei Lun was content to lie by the door chewing on a large Kong toy.  
 
Both cubs were attentive to their visitors during their Wild Encounter. After such a busy morning, we expected it to take a little extra time to get the girls into their dayroom. When we were ready to shift them across the building, they had a slow start but quickly decided they needed to barrel through the hallways and dens to get to their final destination for the day. Little did they know what was awaiting them: a fully-stocked dayroom full of lots of fun toys to play with!  
 
We made sure to include some cub favorites, like a piece of the infamous yellow car, a tub, a firehose "octopus,” and a PVC toy. We also included plenty of vanilla and a new item for the girls to interact with – a large barrel with holes drilled in it. This is the first time the cubs have had access to a large, free-moving barrel, and I'm happy to say they seemed to enjoy it as much as we had hoped they would. Mei Huan, being the explorer that she is, quickly found the barrel and climbed on top of it and began head-butting it out of the corner. This barrel, as well as the other enrichment items in the dayroom, were all revisited off and on throughout the day. If you were tuned into PandaCam this morning, we hope you enjoyed watching the fun as much as we did!
Photo by Jen W.
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Monday, July 7
The cubs seem to forget how much bigger Lun Lun is than they are. During play sessions they throw themselves on her and tug on her fur and with a simple swipe of the paw, she knocks them off. She plays along and acts like they are winning and then boom, and they are on the ground. Sometimes if they are bugging her enough, she might even lie on top of them and then they really can't move. To give you an idea of the size difference, this morning Lun Lun was 104.9 kilograms (230.78 pounds); Mei Lun was 27.60 kilograms (60.72 pounds), and Mei Huan was 27.75 kilograms (61.05 pounds). But no worries! She knows how strong she is and she knows how rough she can be with them, and she definitely holds back.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, July 3
You may have noticed that Lun Lun and the cubs have been spending some time in one of the dayrooms in the evening.  And some of these times, you may have only seen the cubs in the dayroom. This is because we’ve provided Lun and the cubs access to the dayroom overnight, in addition to their dens. When you only see the cubs, they have chosen to be in one area, while Lun has chosen to be in another. We provide dayroom access overnight for number of reasons, but one is to give some variety to the giant pandas. Dayroom access gives them more and different space overnight, which can be enriching for them. Another reason that we might provide them with access to the dayroom overnight is due to scheduled evening events at the Zoo. The Zoo provides a fantastic event space, with the most interesting backdrop I can imagine- animals! In this case, guests can mix and mingle with each other, and view the giant pandas, after the Zoo closes. The giant pandas generally take these changes in stride, which is why you often see them sleeping!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Monday, June 30
Mei Huan is the ice queen! Our calendar of enrichment items for the pandas varies from special food treats to sensory items such as different scents. On environmental enrichment day, we may offer the pandas things like hay, ice and different types of plant species such as mulberry or Chinese elm. Mei Huan is particularly crazy about ice! After cleaning the dayroom and setting Lun Lun up with her afternoon meal, I threw some ice in a tub and covered it with some minty mouthwash. The cubs were still snoozing on the structure in Dayroom One, so I shook the ice around in the tub to get their attention. The rattling ice awoke them from their peaceful slumber and definitely sparked their interest. Staying true to form, Mei Huan couldn't resist the bucket of ice and climbed down to investigate. Mei Lun decided napping was far cooler than playing with ice. It is really neat to watch the cubs develop their own unique little personalities.
Christina W.
Seasonal Keeper, Pandas

Friday, June 27
This afternoon we had a “Freaky Friday” moment in the panda building. Mei Huan is usually the "difficult" cub when it comes to shifting inside from the dayrooms, and Mei Lun is usually the most reliable. So this afternoon when we decided to shift the cubs inside with Lun Lun to clean the dayroom, we expected the norm: Mei Lun would come straight in with her mom, and Mei Huan would require a little more persuasion.  When we opened the shift door, the cub hot on Lun Lun's heels was Mei Huan!  Of course, she received lots of praise and a few biscuits for shifting so well, but we were also a little shocked.  Where was Mei Lun?  Upon checking the camera, we found that she was still sitting in the hammock chewing on a bamboo leaf,  completely ignoring us. Mei Lun finally decided she was ready to shift inside after a little while, and we were able to finish cleaning the dayroom. Silly cubs!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Wednesday, June 25
We're less than a month from the twins' first birthday! The year has flown by at warp speed. Last year I was on nursery duty with the twins during the other pandas' birthdays, so I missed out on the ice cake building fun. Because of this, Shauna willingly took point and made some awesome birthday cakes for everyone. But as she will also admit, building ice cakes isn't an easy task. It takes more planning than you would imagine, as you have to make sure each layer is properly frozen before you add the next layer. And some layers require freezing bamboo poles, so making sure they don't fall over can be tricky.  All panda cakes are made out of frozen water, with either food coloring or pieces of sugarcane/produce frozen inside. The tiers are made out of bamboo. Therefore, the entire cake is safe and edible.  

Of course I strive for "bigger and better" every year and have already designed the twins' cakes. The design is just a sketch, so the final product may look different depending on how well the water cooperates. But if I want them completed on time I need to start yesterday!  Stay tuned for announcements on when we'll be celebrating the girls' first birthday!   
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, June 23
Saturday evening the cubs were sharing a fresh, leafy piece of bamboo on the structure in one of the dayrooms. After chewing on the bamboo for several minutes, Mei Lun was tired and curled up to sleep on top of the bamboo. Mei Huan was not sleepy yet and wanted to keep eating the bamboo; however, Mei Lun sleeping on the bamboo was problematic. So Mei Huan climbed on top of Mei Lun and pushed her off of the bamboo and continued eating. Mei Lun rolled around on the structure trying to get comfortable again, but Mei Huan was now sitting in her favorite spot. Mei Lun decided to attempt to take back her spot and a brief wrestling match ensued, during which the bamboo fell from the structure. After losing the bamboo, both cubs resumed their usual sleeping spots on the structure and took a long nap.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, June 20
1992: The Cold War was declared officially over. “Melrose Place” made its debut. The final episode of “The Golden Girls” aired. What else happened that year? A research student by the name of Rebecca Snyder, PhD, joined our Zoo family.

No, there were no pandas here yet. At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeing in China, Rebecca included two females, Bing Bing and Ya Ya, among her subjects in her studies on giant panda maternal behavior. Eight years later, those females’ children, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, arrived in Atlanta to found a family dynasty. The founding part would take awhile, but the rest is history. 
 
She has given us much more than outstanding management of our giant panda program, carnivore program and ultimately mammal program, not to mention her indelible contributions to the world’s body of knowledge of giant panda reproductive and maternal behavior.
 
Rebecca’s scientific contributions are invaluable, but her personal gifts may be those we miss the most. She is a true professional, and her kind, steady and diplomatic demeanor has always ensured that each time she sat down in a meeting, she brought something good to the table. And those of us fortunate enough to have experienced the light of her wonderful sense of humor know that if something’s funny and Rebecca gets to laughing, the funny thing will be 100 times funnier by the time all is said and done. 
 
It’s true that not all zoos have giant pandas. There are four zoos with those. For more than 20 years, we've been the only zoo with a Rebecca Snyder. It’s been a rare gift indeed. 
 
Find out more about her research with giant pandas.

Thursday, June 19
Yesterday, Heather and I were collecting mother-cub behavioral data together, and we were treated to seeing Lun Lun and the twins cram into the hammock together. It was comical to see them all try to fit into the hammock at the same time. It didn’t last long, because I don’t think any of them were really comfortable. The twins tried to nurse while they were all together, but Lun Lun got out of the hammock pretty quickly after they started nursing. Even though that’s a favorite nursing spot for her, it doesn’t work very well anymore for nursing two cubs at once. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are big girls now. They continue to weigh in well above our previous cubs.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, June 18
Everything is pretty status quo in PandaLand. The adult pandas are going through the annual summertime "nothing-tastes-good" phase. This is because a lot of the bamboo we harvest is usually on the younger side since most species have spit out new growth in the spring. Bamboo forests are very dense, and the older, more mature stuff in the middle of the forest is very hard for our bamboo techs to reach. This is the bamboo the bears usually enjoy. To compensate, we've been offering many different species to see what they are interested in. Luckily with the annual summertime pickiness, we have started to see Yang Yang and Lun Lun leafing the bamboo a bit more. Soon enough we'll enter the leafing season, which is every panda keeper's favorite time of the year. Why? Cleanup is super easy! Unfortunately, our pandas march to their own tune and don't leaf bamboo for very long, but we enjoy the season however long it lasts!
 
If you're wondering, the twins aren't being picky. They'll chew on any type of bamboo: mature, young, fresh, dried-up-and-crispy, etc.!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, June 16
We do not always use physical features to distinguish Mei Lun and Mei Huan. We can often tell which cub is which just by her behavior or mannerisms. For example, Mei Huan almost always sleeps on the bars of the structure in the dayroom with the hammock and enjoys sleeping on her back. Mei Lun prefers to sleep curled up and in the corner of that structure. Mei Huan loves every toy and will immediately pounce on novel enrichment items, but Mei Lun is more hesitant and lets her sister or mother check out anything new first. Mei Huan is usually the first cub we see first thing in the morning; Mei Lun likes to sleep in. Mei Huan knows her own mind and enjoys her independence, whereas Mei Lun likes to stick close to her mother. The cubs are so different from each other that we almost never mistake one for the other when we use behavioral cues to differentiate them.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, June 13
Yesterday our pandas had a special visitor! One of the National Zoo panda keepers was in Atlanta and stopped by the panda house to meet our pandas. Other panda keepers are few and far between compared to other zookeepers, so it was a nice treat for me as well as for the pandas. Lun Lun and the cubs came inside from the exhibit perfectly when I called them, just to show off their shifting skills! The cubs also showed her how calmly they could behave for biscuits. Yang Yang was too busy eating bamboo to come inside and meet her, but it was still a nice visit.  
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Wednesday, June 11
For my last update I wrote about how we need to work with the cubs on some training behaviors. Since then, both cubs have learned to put their paws down before receiving food or before shifing through a door. Pandas are smart and quick learners, so I am not surprised at how quickly the cubs have learned a new behavior. Any behavior that they do and we reinforce with food or attention will be repeated. As keepers, we have to be mindful of what the pandas are doing when we offer food or attention to them so that we do not accidentally reinforce behaviors that are undesirable.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Monday, June 9
Life is real hard if you are a baby panda growing up at Zoo Atlanta. At 7 a.m., the keeper comes in and feeds/weighs you.  Then you get to play around with your sister or Mom while your dayroom or habitat is prepared. After the excitement of the daily morning shifting adventure (because there are so many things to see and corners to sniff!), there's playtime in the freshly set up enclosure with brand-new enrichment. By around 9 or 10 a.m., breakfast has been burned through, so it's time to snooze the afternoon away. Your nap might get momentarily disrupted by refreshing bamboo for Mom Lun Lun. You might even get a treat or two if you come down and shift inside with Mom! Either way, afterwards it's back to that nap! Around mid to late afternoon, you've recharged your batteries and it's time for round two of playtime! Finally in the late afternoon, you come inside for the night and proceed to goof around and power-nap under the watchful eye of Mom until the keeper returns the next morning.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Thursday, June 5
We offer all our animals at the Zoo a wide variety of enrichment. To ensure that we rotate through all enrichment on a regular basis, most departments rotate through select "themes" throughout the month. What the keeper ends up giving is up to them, but having a theme is helpful. The common themes are manipulative, food, environmental, social and sensory. The most difficult theme in my opinion is environmental because that requires a lot creativity. We're either adding or removing something from the animals' habitats, or in other words, changing the environment. A new haybed or a new logpile in a different location are perfect examples.  

Sometimes, we'll throw in a bunch of approved vegetation (nontoxic, of course) to change up the feng shui. On Wednesday, I decided to cut a large piece from a mulberry bush to give to the pandas and our red panda. Mulberry grows like weeds all over Georgia. While most pandas only like to eat bamboo, Yang Yang has a taste for mulberry and can be seen eating it from time to time. Mei Lan, our firstborn cub, enjoyed a type of plant belonging to the Elaeagnus genus. Lun Lun and Mei Lun weren't that impressed with the mulberry I gave them, but much to my surprise, Mei Huan took right after her dad and started munching on the leaves.  I doubt she ingested much if any, but it was still cute to see that she takes after her dad. In hindsight, I'm not really that surprised, because Mei Huan has shown a lot of interest in playing/inspecting/chewing on the variety of vegetation that grows in our outdoor exhibits. While it's common for young pandas to sample different types of vegetation, Mei Huan seems to really enjoy "mowing the yard!”
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Wednesday, June 4
As many of you know, one of the Zoo's veterinarians, Dr. Sam, and I recently accompanied Xi Lan and Po on their voyage to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. The trip was very long. Throughout the entire voyage, Xi Lan and Po were always very relaxed and went about their normal activities of eating bamboo, bamboo shoots and biscuits, followed by a series of nice naps.  That is exactly what we were hoping for.  

They both became a little anxious when we transferred them to their new living quarters at the base, which is completely normal, but they both calmed down within a short time and were both eating and behaving well soon after. I'm sure that they will do just fine over in their homeland.  I met a bunch of the panda keepers, and they are very excited to have both Xi Lan and Po there, and were anxious to begin working with them.  Just how calm both of the pandas were during their trip took Dr. Sam and myself a little off guard, because we were expecting them both to behave a little bit more like their older brother did when he was sent to China.  
 
When Mei Lan traveled to China over three years ago, he wasn’t quite as calm as his younger siblings on his voyage. When he arrived in Chengdu, it took him over a week to really start calming down and start behaving normally. This is also normal behavior for some giant pandas when they are transferred between institutions. One of the reasons the Zoo sends a familiar face along with the pandas is to help with the transition. After that first week, Mei Lan's comfort level and behavior started steadily improving until he was soon acting completely normal.  
 
I bring up Mei Lan because while I was at the base I was able to visit with him several times to see how he was doing now. The panda base has over 80 giant pandas, and with the exception of Xi Lan and Po, they pretty much all looked the same to me. I haven't seen Mei Lan since he left Atlanta, and I was concerned that I would not be able to recognize him when I saw him. When we went to see Mei Lan for the first time, I was unaware that they had kept him off exhibit for me and that there were going to be news cameras rolling to document the reunion. I am not really a big fan of cameras so I began to get a little nervous. I was just hoping that I would be able to pick him out of the crowd, especially if it was all being documented. All of this concern was for naught, however.  
 
When I entered the building, Mei Lan looked up at me, and aside from getting much larger, he hasn't changed a lick. He looked so good, and so big! Not as big as dear old dad yet, but getting there. When I walked in, he was just sitting on the floor covered with the remnants of many bamboo shoots, which he was thoroughly enjoying. Now I just wondered if he would remember me. I called out his name, and he immediately looked up. He then got to his feet, casting the multitude of bamboo shoot remnants off to the side, and came over to where I was kneeling. His current keepers gave me some food for him, and he took it from me just like old times.  I was even able to run through a couple of training behaviors with him successfully. It was just like old times. I was actually surprised that he performed the behaviors I requested, as he doesn't hear many of the commands in English much anymore. I spent a little more time with him, but typical of pandas, when he realized that I didn't have any more food for him, he went back to his large pile of shoots. I was not at all offended by this, as he would have done the same thing even if he had stayed with us in Atlanta. 
 
I sat there for a while longer and just watched him eating. During this time, I had a chance to speak with some of his keepers about how he was doing, and they gave me some exciting news about him. During this year’s breeding season, Mei Lan successfully bred several times. Everyone over there was calling him "the Man," as this really was his first go at it and he performed flawlessly. Maybe he could teach his old man a thing or two. After a while I finally had to leave and see the rest of what the research base had to offer. I did go by his habitat several times over the next couple of days and sat and watched him for a while. I can't believe that little boy, who I was with the day he was born, just may be a daddy himself in the near future. All in all, I just couldn't be happier on how everything turned out with him. It may take a little time, but I am sure that his brother and sister will just as happy.
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Monday, June 2
I have been out of the building for a little while now, and I can't believe how big those little girls have become. They are both currently right at 25 kilograms (just over 55 pounds). Aside from their size, you can tell they are getting older by their behavior. While they still sleep a bunch during the day, they have acutally become more active, and you can see them exploring, climbing, or wrestling amongst themselves more often during the day. Lun Lun even likes to jump into the fray every now and again to release a little energy. Today was one of those days where this was evident. The cubs were up numerous times during the day, wrestling with each other in the top of the structure. In between bites of bamboo, Lun Lun would occasionally go over to them and pull one out of the structure and play with her on the ground for a few minutes. Lun Lun would then go back to eating, and the cub would immediately go right back up on the structure and resume the battle with her sister. While they are getting older and stronger, they still are cubs and can only take so much, so after a long hard play bout,  both of them had to take a nice, long power nap. These are the good days.  Enjoy them!
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Thursday, May 29
So you've probably heard us talking about red leafeater biscuits off and on. Variations of commercially produced biscuits are offered to many species of animals here at the Zoo. The ones we have been offering the giant pandas for quite some time are red because they contain beet juice, which makes them sweet. At least they taste sweet to pandas. They don’t taste particularly sweet to people. These biscuits are basically a protein/vitamin "cookie.” We use them as a supplement to the pandas’ natural bamboo diet, and thus the biscuits make up a small percentage of the total diet. Recently, we began slowly transitioning the giant pandas to another form of biscuit that is different in appearance, smell, and composition. These biscuits are higher in fiber, and thus more like the giant pandas’ natural diet. But giant pandas are naturally food neophobic (no surprise, because they are feeding specialists!). So, the process of transitioning to new biscuits has been slow because the pandas didn't like the new biscuits at first Also, we're doing the transition slowly so as to not upset their digestive systems.  Lun Lun was suspicious of the new biscuits and took awhile to accept them, whereas the cubs enjoy both types. Yang Yang has been the most resistant. He's just stubborn sometimes! At first he liked them, then he didn't, then we had to "trick" him by offering both a red biscuit and the new brown one at the same time. Now he'll eat the brown biscuits by themselves, but for whatever reason he always rejects the first brown biscuit offered, but will readily eat it later.  He likes to test us, so we must stick to our guns and eventually he'll learn to enjoy the new biscuits as much as the old ones. But I don't blame him for being picky - I'd probably prefer the sweeter biscuits myself!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, May 28
It's time for the girls to learn some manners! During yesterday's Wild Encounter, Lun Lun and both cubs were so eager to get some biscuits, they were pushing and shoving each other out of the way and displaying several "begging" behaviors. It was a little chaotic! Some examples of begging behaviors are putting paws up on or climbing up the enclosure mesh and vocalizing at the keepers. These are behaviors we do not reinforce with attention or food because we do not want to encourage the pandas to do these things. Lun Lun knows better, but she still tries to get away with it. The cubs are still learning. We have all been working with the cubs on training them to put their paws on the floor before they receive a biscuit, but they have not quite mastered this behavior yet. They are doing really well with shifting and getting weighed on the adult panda scale, so we know they will eventually learn this new behavior, too. 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Tuesday, May 27
On Monday, I hung a new enrichment item I made in Dayroom One (the hammock dayroom). It's a large white barrel with holes cut out. A metal pipe runs through the barrel and is attached to the structure where the hammock normally goes. Yang Yang was the first one who got to see the brand-new enrichment. At first he looked at it as he walked into the dayroom, but decided to eat some bamboo before he inspected the mysterious new thing any further. Eventually, he filled his belly with bamboo and decided to check out the barrel. I placed some biscuits inside the barrel. The idea is that the pandas have to spin the barrel on the pipe in order for biscuits to fall through. We call this a "feeder toy.” Yang had a lot of fun spinning and spinning and spinning the barrel before he realized biscuits were flying out of it. After he got all his biscuits, he ignored it and went back to his bamboo.  

After lunch we moved the pandas around so Lun Lun and the twins could see the new item. Lun Lun went straight for her bamboo, ignoring the biscuits I had placed in the barrel. But the twins went straight for the new item! They are just tall enough that if they stand bipedally, they can spin the barrel. After a moment, Mei Huan decided to check out the new enrichment from a different angle. She climbed the structure and then tried to step onto the barrel! I knew this would happen at some point, and it was quite amusing to watch her teeter for a split second before the barrel started to spin and she went sliding right off. After this, both twins discovered the biscuits that had fallen out and proceeded to gobble them all up. I'm not sure Lun Lun got any biscuits, but eventually she went over and manipulated the barrel as well. Her interaction did not last as long, so I suspect there weren't any biscuits left!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Tuesday, May 20
The twins have gotten pretty good about staying outside in the habitats all day when the weather’s cool enough for them to be outdoors. If you remember, they used to never want to go back outside after the 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. feeds. Now they are more willing to and shift back outside most days. It's been fun to watch them as they've gotten more comfortable as well. Mei Huan has her little nook on the rockwork going into the moat. Mei Lun likes to perch herself on the highest level of the climbing structure. Mei Huan is a plant/bush destroyer while her sister enjoys following Mom around and sampling the bamboo and shoots Lun Lun is eating. Unless asleep, the cubs almost always follow Mom inside when it's time to service the exhibit. But as in the dayrooms, we're also allowed to go in with them as long as they snooze and don't move.
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Monday, May 19
If you read Jen's earlier update on bamboo shoots, you should know quite a bit about them. Yesterday we offered the cubs some very small, skinny shoots to them up on the climbing structure. They seemed to have had a blast chewing on them. I am not sure how much they actually ate and how much they just broke apart and dropped on the ground, but shoots have sparked an interest in both of them. Whether it was the weather or the sugar in the shoots, the cubs were both extra spunky today. During our lunch break, we had fun watching them. Lun Lun was pulling them off the climbing structure and wrestling with them. Then they would get away and start climbing up the structure and stop, deciding to jump off and land on top of Lun Lun. All three of them were wrestling and rolling around with each other for most of our lunch break. It made for a lot of lunchtime laughter in pandas. Hope you were all able to tune in for the fun too.
Mollye N.
Mammals Keeper III

Thursday, May 15
Xi Lan and Po made it safely to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (Chengdu Research Base). They did very well during the long journey. Zoo Atlanta’s Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Sam Rivera, sent us frequent updates throughout the trip. He said Xi Lan and Po ate well and were calm throughout the trip. They experienced one period of turbulence and even this did not seem to bother the pandas. Sam said they continued eating calmly.

Xi Lan and Po are currently completing a routine quarantine period. Xi Lan has settled right in and is eating well. Po is showing some anxious behavior and is not as calm as Xi Lan. Po’s behavior is a normal reaction to such a large change. Furthermore, Po’s behavior in her current situation fits with her personality. She tends to be reactive toward unfamiliar noises and situations. Xi Lan is more easygoing and usually doesn’t react strongly to new situations. It will take Po a little time to adjust, but she will be okay and eventually she will thrive in her new home. The people caring for her are giant panda experts, and they have helped many giant pandas adjust to living at the Chengdu Research Base. Dr. Rivera and Kenn Harwood, Lead Keeper of Carnivores, will keep a close eye on Po and Xi Lan and continue to send us updates.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, May 14
It's bamboo shoot season!! I love this time of year. The shoots (young bamboo that pops out of the ground) are full of sugar, water and deliciousness. During this time of year, giant pandas (and red pandas) will gorge themselves on shoots, passing over mature bamboo. The shoots are full of nutrition and fill the pandas up more quickly than bamboo does. We are able to cut shoots from certain behind-the-scenes locations on grounds, so we have a small but decent supply to offer our guys. Our bamboo techs cut some shoots when they harvest bamboo as well, but often they leave the shoots alone to replenish the bamboo forests that we harvest from. Because of all of this, we aren't able to give our pandas nearly as many shoots as they would eat in the wild, but we definitely take advantage of what we are able to gather! The twins instinctively gravitate toward the shoots as well. They chew on pieces as they do with the mature bamboo, but for the most part they leave it alone or use it as a playtoy. This is probably for the best, as Lun Lun probably doesn't want to share her shoots!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores

Tuesday, May 13
Most of you know that on Monday morning we said goodbye to two of our giant pandas, Xi Lan and Po. I have known and cared for Xi Lan and Po since they were born. This is obviously a bittersweet time for me. I miss Xi Lan and Po, and the panda building feels very strange without them, but I know they will have happy and fullfilled lives at the panda base in Chengdu. I think I find it a little less bittersweet because I travelled to Chengdu with Mei , and I have seen firsthand not only the process of adjustment that he went through, but also the care he received from his Chinese keepers. I know the keepers and staff at the panda base are just as excited that Xi Lan and Po are joining Mei Lan there, and they will be just as loved and cared for as they are here at Zoo Atlanta.  

Xi Lan and Po both entered their crates calmly the morning of the move and ate bamboo shoots while we prepared to load them onto the truck to take them to the airport. We received an update from Dr. Sam Rivera that evening that both Xi Lan and Po were doing well on the plane and eating well! I am sure we will have more updates from Kenn or Sam while they are in Chengdu with Xi Lan and Po and we will pass them on when we can.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Friday, May 9
Many of our panda fans have asked if we ever get updates about Mei Lan from Chengdu. We do receive updates about Mei Lan periodically. He is doing great! He has settled in really well at the Chengdu Research Base, and he is well-known and popular with visitors to the Research Base. Two staff from Zoo Atlanta will accompany Xi Lan and Po to China. The staff members are Dr. Sam Rivera, Associate Veterinarian, and Kenn Harwood, Lead Keeper of Carnivores. Sam and Kenn will see Mei Lan, and they will talk to the keepers and veterinarians at the Research Base who care for Mei Lan. Check back for an update on Mei Lan in a few weeks when Sam and Kenn return from their trip.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, May 7
Yesterday's excitement was ice. We gave all the pandas a tub of ice for enrichment on Tuesday. Mei Huan had a blast with it. She ran straight for the tub when we let her out. First she tried to sit in it, but as you all know, the cubs are getting pretty big. Somehow she was able to fit her whole body in it and just sat there on top of the ice. Then she got out and dumped the tub sideways, digging her paws through the ice. Eventually she flipped all the ice out. After that, the tub became more exciting than the ice. She started mouthing at the tub and got back in it. Throughout this exciting time for Mei Huan, Mei Lun had a very different reaction. She slowly crept up to Mei Huan playing in the ice, very unsure about it. Then she decided it was safer to go back and hide behind their water bowl until Mei Huan was done. Once their ice excitement was over, they both headed to their favorite places on top of the climbing structure and the ice was left to melt.
Mollye N.
Mammals Keeper III

Tuesday, May 6
Mei Lun and Mei Huan are growing like weeds! Mei Lun now weighs 21.45 kilograms, and Mei Huan weighs 21.56 kilograms. They are usually very close in weight these days; we no longer see a large discrepancy between the two anymore. Both of the cubs really like the leafeater biscuits, and we see them chewing on bamboo more each day. They are not ingesting much bamboo, but it will not be long until they will start eating small amounts. However, Lun Lun's milk continues to be their main source of calories. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are currently our largest cubs so far at this age.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Monday, May 5
Preparing one animal for a move across the world is a huge undertaking, let alone preparing two animals! There are a few different sights and smells for the pandas to investigate right now as we work with Xi Lan and Po to prepare them for their upcoming trip to China. One of the things we're working with Xi Lan and Po on is entering a crate. We're fortunate that both Xi Lan and Po are already comfortable entering the "squeeze,” so a crate is only slightly different. 
 
We've mentioned the "squeeze" in previous updates. The squeeze is a cage on wheels that we ask the pandas to pass through regularly, which allows us more direct access to the pandas if needed for veterinary exams. This is historically a fun place for all of our cubs to play in, so both Xi Lan and Po have grown up with lots of experience in this part of the building. Having the pandas use this area frequently means that they are entirely comfortable with it. 
 
The crates that Xi Lan and Po will travel to China in are the same crates that Yang Yang and Lun Lun arrived in in 1999. They're a little smaller than the squeeze and have enclosed walls, which will keep the pandas safe during the moving process. The keepers are spending time with both pandas getting them comfortable with walking through the crate, seeing (and hearing) the doors open and close, and having the doors closed while they sit in the crate. By the time Xi Lan and Po are ready to leave this should be routine, which will make moving day as easy as possible for them.
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, May 2
If you follow the pandas on PandaCam, you’ve probably noticed that it can sometimes be difficult to see them, even when you  know the camera is aimed directly at a panda. One of the reasons for this is that the cameras in the habitats are outside and, not surprisingly, they get dirty.  We do our best to clean the outside of the cameras, but sometimes it takes a bit more than that to keep them clean. When that’s the case, we remove the globes that house the cameras and give them a good scrub. That project is currently on our list, so fairly soon I hope that you see the results of our efforts. One thing we can’t control, though, is the sun.  At certain times of day, the glare from the sun means that we can’t see much on the cameras, particularly in Habitat One. If you tune in and you can’t see a panda, please try back in an hour or so, because the view will probably be better.
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Thursday, May 1
The cubs are quickly learning a new skill: walking on the adult scale to get a biscuit so we can get their weights. All of our pandas are usually weighed twice a day so we can try to keep track of how much they are eating. It is a pretty simple behavior that really just involves them sitting on the scale eating some biscuits. The older ones know when we get there in the morning and when we bring them in at night to at least look at the scale to see if anything is there for them to eat. If there is, they hop up on the scale and eat their biscuits while we record the weight. The cubs start by following mom on the scale. They soon learn that there are generally biscuits there, assuming Lun Lun hasn't scarfed them down yet. After that step we separate them from Lun and they watch us put biscuits on the scale, and then we wait until they get up there and praise them heavily. After that, and this is the step we are on right now, we have each of them in a different den and we shift them into the scale room one at a time and record their weights. Mei Lun does this the way everyone else has. She gets up on the scale and does not get off until there are no more biscuits. Mei Huan, on the other hand, must have youngest child syndrome, because she gets up on the scale, grabs a biscuit, and immediately hops off and goes to her corner to eat in peace. Even if she is the only panda in the room she does this, which makes it a little difficult to grab her weight sometimes.
Shauna D.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Wednesday, April 30
It has been fun watching the little ones attempt to eat bamboo. They seem to really enjoy playing in the bamboo leaves these days. They will sit down with a small stick and look like their mom, attempting to munch on it. Lately keepers have been putting leafy bamboo pieces on the climbing structure for them. The cubs will grab them with all four feet and wave them around. Sometimes they seem as though they are just playing with the pieces, brushing them across their faces. Other times they line the bamboo up with their mouths and look like an adult panda eating bamboo. Right now the bamboo seems more like a toy, as Mei Huan demonstrated today. When no one was paying her any attention, she grabbed as much bamboo as she could on the ground and rolled it on top of her body. Since Lun Lun still didn't seem to notice her, she threw it back off her body and went to jump on her mom. 
Mollye N.
Mammals Keeper III

Friday, April 25
When we prepare to provide fresh bamboo to the pandas throughout the day, the first thing we usually do is check and see what everyone is up to. If the pandas are sleeping or eating and seem content, we'll wait until they're ready before we interrupt them. The pandas are pretty good at predicting when we're getting ready to provide fresh bamboo, and we've gotten really good at predicting when the pandas will be ready either for more food or a change in scenery. So on Friday afternoon when we checked on everyone and started to decide on our plan for the afternoon, we were surprised to find that Yang Yang was sleeping comfortably outside. It was a little warmer outside than the pandas typically prefer, and he'd eaten most of his bamboo from the morning, but Yang Yang was sound asleep in his cave. Since he was content, we weren't in any rush to ask him to get up and come inside. Instead, we waited for him to make the decision that he was ready. After waking up from his nap, Yang found a piece of leftover bamboo and started muching on it. Since he was still content being outside, we decided to give him fresh bamboo and let him stay outside. I think Yang enjoyed his sunny afternoon, since he wasn't ready to come inside until the end of the day!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Tuesday, April 22
I was able to see Yang Yang in his pool yesterday, which is one of my favorite panda moments. It’s interesting to see any of the giant pandas go into the pools, simply because they don’t do it often. But I think Yang Yang is the cutest. He paddles his paws in the water, lets his back paws float up, and splashes water onto his tummy. He has been doing this since he was a little guy at the Chengdu Research Base. I have a picture I took of him in a pool there when he was around 18 months old. He looks the same, except a lot bigger!

I also like to see this behavior because the scientist in me finds it interesting. It’s clear that one reason giant pandas go into water is to cool off. But I don’t think that’s the only reason. Giant pandas sit and play in water more frequently during the breeding season. They are also more active during the breeding season, and so again sitting in water can be important for cooling if a panda has been walking around a lot like Yang Yang was doing yesterday. But I have observed giant pandas sit and splash in water during the breeding season on chilly days too. A female at the Chengdu Zoo would splash water out of her drinker and roll in it when she was in estrus, but she never did that at any other time. 
 
So, why do pandas do this? I don’t know. One hypothesis is that getting wet makes a panda’s body smell stronger (think of a wet dog). Scent is extremely important to pandas, especially during breeding season. So that hypothesis makes sense to me. Yesterday after Yang Yang climbed out of the pool, he rubbed his body all over the climbing structure. Body rubbing is also a behavior that occurs much more frequently during the breeding season. It’s important for depositing and also picking up scent. Watching Yang Yang body rub after being in the pool supports the idea that spending time in water contributes to scent communication during breeding season. However, this remains an untested hypothesis at this point. It’s another panda mystery, yet to be solved. 
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Monday, April 21
I was on vacation all of last week, but I am glad I came back to work when I did! Everyone was treated to a pretty rare event: Lun Lun acting like a young subadult! As a mom, she's great at playing with her cub(s), but she rarely "lets loose.”  She's been a little lucky this time around as the twins can entertain each other, which leaves Lun Lun with more time to eat.  
 
Since we've started Arrow (Pseudosasa japonica) bamboo season, the pandas get full bellies more quickly, and this sometimes means more playful behavior. This afternoon was no exception.  Instead of your classic play session, Lun Lun was running around Dayroom 1 like a madwoman!  She wasn't upset – she was being very playful! She would launch herself up onto the structure and push her cubs off the structure, only to launch herself off the structure and chase after them.  She did this repeatedly, not allowing her cubs to "get away.” At one point she barreled into one of her cubs, did an about-face and lumbered across the dayroom and tumbled into the other cub before rolling away and running off.
 
What shocked fellow keeper Shauna and me was when Lun ran away from her cubs and climbed up on top of the drinker and perched there. This is something we see almost exclusively with cubs and subadults. Then she jumped off the drinker and proceeded to blow my mind when she grabbed her paw in her mouth and started shaking her head from side to side. We see this paw-biting-and-shaking behavior from all of the other pandas when they're being very playful, but I've never seen Lun Lun do it!  
 
We all got a glimpse of Lun Lun's younger, rambunctious self, and I'm very glad I was able to see it. Hopefully you were able to as well! I think even the cubs were wondering what had happened to their normally laid-back mom. They definitely enjoyed the play session!
Jen W.
Keeper II, Carnivores
 
Friday, April 18
Yesterday was the day that we worked on the mulch in the giant panda dayrooms. Fortunately, this was a year when we were just adding mulch, instead of completely replacing it, which makes our jobs at lot easier. In addition, because we’ve done this a few times already, things went very smoothly and the giant pandas had fresh mulch in no time. We hope that the giant pandas appreciate our efforts, and we hope that you do as well. The new mulch sure looks nice!
 
Now, if I’m completely honest, I need to admit that I wasn’t a part of the “we” that added the mulch. I know, it’s unfair for me to write about something when I wasn’t even there! Instead, I was up working routine in the hoofstock barn.  So, instead of hauling fresh mulch into the giant panda dayrooms, I was hauling “other things” from the hoofstock stalls and corrals!  Close enough, right?  And believe me, I was with the giant panda keepers and the horticulture guys in spirit.
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Tuesday, April 15
The twins are 9 months old! This is hard for me to believe. The first few weeks of their lives went very slowly because we watched them every minute. But the last few months have flown by. They are now halfway through their period of dependency on their mother. In the next few months, their interest in solid foods will increase. A big change will come when they are about 13 months old. At that age, they will have their permanent teeth, and they will begin feeding on significant amounts of bamboo. They will still nurse but their dependency on Lun Lun’s milk will lessen until they are ready for weaning at 18 months of age. That means they are halfway through their time as cubs. After they are weaned from Lun Lun, they will be referred to as subadults until they are reproductively mature. That will occur at 3.5 to 4.5 years of age. We still have plenty of time to enjoy watching the twins with Lun Lun, but I’m sure the time will pass quickly.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Monday, April 14
The weather was gorgeous last week! With things finally starting to warm up in Atlanta, we're starting to get out of the "perfect panda weather" that our bears have been enjoying for the last several months. Giant pandas are adapted to living in the cool, humid, mountainous regions of China. This means they have thick fur coats, which help keep them dry and warm. Imagine wearing your heaviest winter coat on a sunny, warm day. Just the thought makes me uncomfortable! This is likely how the pandas will start to feel soon, which means that we'll have to start keeping a closer eye on the temperatures throughout the day. This also means that you won't always be able to see all six of our pandas on exhibit when you visit, as we won't be able to have pandas in the outside habitats if it gets too warm. Please "bear" with us, and know that we're working hard to keep the pandas cool and comfortable!
Jennifer A
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, April 11
The cubs, as with most young animals, have again shown that they can make anything fun. Today we put a couple of small stalks of bamboo on their spot in the hammock dayroom while they were passed out. Moments later Mei Huan popped up and instantly started chewing on it as if she had never seen bamboo before. She manipulated the piece in her mouth and with her paws for a few minutes until she inevitably dropped it. And after all that fun, it was again naptime. Mei Lun was a little slower to wake up when the piece was placed by her. When she did notice it, she managed to rip a leaf from the main stalk and sat there chewing on it for a good while. She even looked like she was trying to roll the piece in her paw as the older pandas do when they eat leaves. I was not able to see if she actually consumed the leaf or not, but it is not abnormal for them to ingest some small pieces every once in a while. And by the way, their current weights are: Mei Lun: 18.8 kilograms, and Mei Huan: 18.55 kilograms.
Shauna
Keeper I, Carnivores

Friday, April 4
After Spring Break, we’ve got a really fun task on our calendars: working on the mulch in the giant panda dayrooms! When I say that this task is “fun,” I’m being a bit sarcastic, and I’ll explain why. Periodically we remove all of the mulch from each of the dayrooms.  We do this for a variety of reasons, but one reason is because it helps reduce the amount of dust in the building.  Mulch removal needs to be done by hand, because we aren’t able to get large machinery into the area. That means that a large group of us, manned with wheelbarrows, shovels and pitchforks, spend a few hours hauling the old mulch from the dayrooms to the back dock of the building before replacing it with fresh mulch. Obviously we don’t do this with the giant pandas in the dayrooms, so this project needs to be planned carefully around the needs of the animals, as well as the weather. Because we’ve done this a few times, we’ve got it down to a science, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still get filthy doing it! This time around, we’re only doing a partial change and adding some fresh mulch, so we’re getting off easy (a full mulch change is a bit further down the road). I’m sure you’ll hear more about this as the date get closer and once we finally freshen up the mulch. It’s a physical, dirty, tiring job, so it will be on our minds for the next few weeks!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
 
Thursday, April 3
We are often asked how we trained Lun Lun to retrieve her cubs and what cue we use for this behavior. I have discussed this topic before in updates, but will address it here again. We started training Lun Lun this behavior with her first cub, Mei Lan. We trained the behavior like any other behavior using positive reinforcement (the panda is rewarded with something for doing a behavior we want him or her to repeat). We "captured" the retrieval behavior using her natural mothering activities; once Lun Lun started carrying her cubs from place to place, we rewarded her for doing that. We shaped this behavior by only rewarding her for carrying the cub towards us. Then we added the third dimension: Lun Lun only got rewarded if she brought the cub from one area to another area. Lun Lun perfected her method with each cub, and now she is a pro at helping her cubs shift from one area to another. We do not need to use this behavior often, and sometimes it is not appropriate for Lun Lun to retrieve the cubs, but it is a useful cue for Lun Lun to have in her repertoire.
Regarding what cues we use for Lun Lun or any of the pandas for learned behaviors -- that is not something we want to share. We want to avoid anyone other than the panda keepers using the pandas' behavioral cues out of context, such as our guests calling them out to the pandas from the viewing areas. Not only is it confusing for the pandas to hear behavioral cues from unfamiliar voices, but there is no reward along with the verbal cue. The reason our training program works is because firstly, the pandas trust their keepers and secondly, the pandas are rewarded after performing a trained behavior. If an animal is repeatedly asked for a trained behavior with no reinforcement, that behavior can become extinguished (i.e., the panda will stop performing that behavior). Clearly, this is not something we want to happen.
 
We are very proud of our pandas and their training accomplishments. We have worked very hard for many years on establishing a positive relationship with each of the pandas and building up an impressive collection of trained behaviors. These behaviors help us and the veterinary staff take excellent care of the pandas.
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Wednesday, April 2
Today, we placed apples in the pool in Habitat II for Yang Yang to try bobbing for apples. He stretched as far as he could, trying his best not to get wet when reaching for the apples. I am a primary keeper for the meat-eating carnivores, and I only work in the panda world infrequently. I had the great opportunity to carry Mei Lun and Mei Huan from the hallway to a den. The new lion cubs now weigh about 17.5 kilograms, which is very close to the weights of the panda twins. However, the lion cubs are only 5 months old, and the panda twins are 8 months old.
Ryan 
Keeper II
 
 
Tuesday, April 1
If you’ve visited the pandas at the Zoo lately, you might have noticed a new piece of equipment when we’re servicing Dayroom 2 (the one with the teepee structure). With the keeper door open, you can see we’ve recently installed a washer/dryer in the building. This was the best location for the washer/dryer. The panda building is quarantined to prevent, to the best of our abilities, our pandas to being exposed to viruses and other cooties in the outside world. Because of these biosecurity protocols, all staff must immediately change from street clothes upon entering the building. So we keep our uniforms in the building and wash them here.  
 
Washers and dryers are not only a new sound to our pandas, but they have also even noticed its presence when not in use. We’ve been working on desensitizing the bears to the new equipment, and on Tuesday, we had Lun and the twins in Dayroom 2. They were completely unfazed by the washer until it hit the spin cycle. Everyone perked up to the weird noise, and Lun even went over to the keeper window and looked around, but no one seemed overly upset. Lun soon went back to eating, and the girls went back to their afternoon nap. The other bears have been exposed as well, and everyone is tolerating the new noisy white thing pretty well. Even scaredy-pants Po isn’t that scared of it!  It’s kind of funny to watch everyone eye the washer/dryer as they come inside, but pretty soon they’ll ignore it as they do everything else we have in the building.
Jen Webb
Keeper I, Carnivores