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Help support the twin panda cubs and their counterparts in the wild. 

 
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

Why is it dark in here? 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. Otherwise, check back in the morning!

 

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 Panda Updates

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
 
Friday, March 28
We have received some questions asking how we will identify the twins when they become too big to handle to shave. The twins have distinctive faces and the keepers are quite good at telling them apart, much better than I am. There are differences in the pattern of fur on their noses, and their ears look different. They will continue to change as they mature and will likely become more distinctive. In China, I collected behavioral data on groups of subadult pandas with as many as eight individuals in the same enclosure. They all had little differences that enabled me to tell them apart during observations. So, I am confident that we will be able to continue to tell the twins apart without needing to shave them. However, if we decide we want to continue to shave them for identification, they can also easily be trained to allow us to do this without handling them or entering their enclosure. Our other pandas are trained to have their forelimbs shaved for voluntary blood draws. Lun Lun and Yang Yang are also trained to have their abdomens shaved for ultrasound.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Thursday, March 27
These twins may be cute, small, and "cuddly-in-appearance," but one point I like to emphasize to guests is their STRENGTH. For a 16-ish kilogram animal, these girls are shockingly strong. They're built to climb. And with great climbing skills comes a vise-like grip. When the twins were smaller, it was pretty easy to pluck them off the dayroom structures in the afternoons when we were setting everyone up for dinner. Even at that age, speed was key. If they knew you were going to pick them up, instincts would kick in and they'd latch onto the structure. Luckily their grip wasn't that strong. 
 
It's a little different now. It takes quite a bit of effort to detach the girls from the structures in the afternoon, and sometimes we need a little help from a second keeper. The girls aren't stressed; it's just instinctual to tighten their grip, and they even do it when mom Lun Lun is trying to grab them. It may seem like they are in discomfort as they're being pulled off, but don't worry! Panda cubs are virtually indestructible, and mom can pull way harder than we humans are capable of. One way we know for sure that they aren't in any discomfort or aren't annoyed is the fact that they don't vocalize at us when we remove them from the structures. I personally think they like to make a game out of it.
 
But the girls are only going to get stronger. Because of this, we've started to ask Lun Lun for help in the afternoons. She will retreive her little ones when we ask her to. So as the cubs grow, you will start to see less of us carrying the cubs and more of the cubs doing all the leg work ... literally!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores
 
 
Wednesday, March 26
We are working on training the cubs to come inside from the exhibit in the afternoons. This is much more difficult than training them to go out in the mornings. In the afternoons, the cubs are always asleep and do not want to move. Yesterday evening, I worked with Lun Lun and the cubs to shift them into the dens from the dayroom with the hammock. Both cubs were sound asleep, but thankfully Lun Lun is trained to retrieve the cubs. Initially, I tried calling the cubs in when Lun Lun came in, but they ignored me and didn't even open their eyes! So I had to ask Lun Lun to bring the cubs in. She tried calling them first as well, which means she gives out a long bleat that is distinctive to the bleats she gives the other pandas. Lun Lun bleated several times, but the cubs also ignored her. Then Lun Lun had to go out and physically bring the cubs in. First, she pulled Mei Huan off of the structure into the hammock. When Mei Huan did not follow her inside, Lun Lun picked her up by her scruff and brought her in. Next, she did the same thing with Mei Lun. Although it may not sound very nice of Lun Lun to do this, if she were in the wild and needed her cub to move and the cub was not following, she would do the same thing. This is how panda mothers teach their cubs to follow them even if they do not want to. We are in the early days of this training and the hope is that eventually, the cubs will shift in when we call them and Lun Lun will not have to do all of the work.
Heather R. 
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Tuesday, March 25
Lun Lun and the twins were outside again yesterday and had a nice long nap together on the climbing structure. The twins are still a little slow to shift outside. Yesterday morning it took them about 15 minutes, which is a big improvement from the 90 minutes it took on Friday. However, when they were shifted off exhibit for cleaning and bamboo provisioning, they weren’t interested in going back out. A nap in the vestibule seemed like a better idea to them. This is a nice spot for them, but not for guests. The cubs are not visible when in the vestibule, and there are no cameras in that area. It takes time for the cubs to readily shift outside. It’s similar to when we start shifting them into the dayroom. It takes time for them to catch on to the change in routine and be comfortable in the new space. We remind ourselves that they are still very young and the world seems very big to them.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Monday, March 24
You might have noticed (or will notice) that the pandas are receiving some new enrichment. We have acquired several new enrichment items bought or donated from our Christmas Wish List and a few were created here at the Zoo by keepers. All new enrichment items must be formally approved by curators and vet staff before they can be given to the animals. This is true for all animal areas of the Zoo. Once approved, keepers must then complete three separate "observations". During these observations, the animals are given the new enrichment item under supervision and we notate how they react, if at all. We also play close attention to how destructive the animal is with the item, and whether the item can withstand said destruction. After completing the observations, we send the forms back to the curators and they give the final approval on if the animal can have the new enrichment unsupervised.  
 
This may seem tedious, but we do this to ensure that everything we offer our animals is safe. Some approved items have become unapproved because they are deemed unsafe for the animals after staff watched how they interacted with the new enrichment. For example, if the pandas are able to tear a plastic toy to pieces, but leave the pieces alone, that's one thing and probably not a big deal.  If they act like they might ingest the pieces, that's a big deal because this could harm them. Sometimes, we have to modify the enrichment items so it's a little more critter-simplified.  We strive to make feeder toys difficult in order to stimulate the animal's brain...but sometimes we make them too difficult! These observation forms also let keepers know how their animals investigate new things which could lead to new, creative, enrichment ideas that stimulate natural behaviors! 
 
So, we panda keepers are busy completing our observation forms so we can start offering all of these new enrichment items on a regular basis! So far everything is going smoothly and the pandas are enjoying the new toys! 
Jen W
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, March 20
On Thursday, the cubs went out into the outdoor habitat for the first time! The cubs have seen the outside from the patio adjacent to the indoor dens, but this is the first time they have experienced grass and dirt. As with our previous cubs, we keepers went out with Mei Lun and Mei Huan initially to assess how they would react to the exhibit. We started by putting them in the moat so we could be sure they would figure out how to climb up and out of it. They spent several minutes just exploring the moat itself. Mei Lun wanted to climb out using the steepest part of the wall, but soon followed her sister, who found the easy way up using the rock "steps". After both cubs climbed out of the moat, they slowly explored other parts of the exihibit -- the climbing structure, the cave and the tree. The longer they were out there, they grew more confident and we decided they were ready to spend some time out there with Lun Lun. As we expected, Lun Lun was unfazed by being out in the habitat again. She looked and sniffed around for a minute or two, then sat down to eat her breakfast. However, she did seem to enjoy her morning nap in the sunshine. The cubs were very active all morning, exploring every inch of the habitat and only briefly napped in the cave during the lunch. By the time they all came inside to the dayroom, the cubs were exhausted and crashed out on the structure for the rest of the afternoon. It was a big day for the cubs! 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Tuesday, March 18
Today was a pretty dreary day in Atlanta. It was chilly and still a little soggy from the rain we've had over the last few days. Most of us probably look at days like today and think it would be perfect to curl up and get some extra sleep. This was not the case for the pandas - Yang Yang, Lun Lun, Xi Lan and Po spent much of the day eating. And when they were finished eating the bamboo that they liked, they spent their time requesting more.

Mei Lun and Mei Huan slept the day away in the climbing structure. Every time I checked the camera to see what they were up to, they were asleep. I know they moved a little because they changed sleeping positions, but it seems they enjoyed their lazy day!
Jennifer A
Keeper I, Mammals

Monday, March 17
Sunday was a very rainy day here in Atlanta. Most critters at the Zoo had access to their off-exhibit housing and chose to stay there instead of venturing out into the soggy world. I don’t blame them! Here in PandaLand, we didn’t even bother offering the outdoor exhibits. Giant pandas usually don’t like to get wet, even though their fur is oily which helps to repel water. Our adults (Yang Yang and Lun Lun) will tolerate a light drizzle if they have plenty of bamboo, but the teenagers (Xi Lan and Po) act like rain hitting their fur is an unbearable sensation.

Ha ha, unbearable … get it?
 
If it starts raining, the pandas usually book it for the cave in each outdoor yard and try to sleep away the evil wetness falling from the sky.  Sometimes they will bring a piece of bamboo into the cave with them to eat.  But even with the caves, our pandas are pretty cranky if we leave them outside. Xi Lan will hunker down in any spot where he finds relief from the rain and won’t budge, even if he wants to come in and hears us calling him. Po, Lun Lun and Yang Yang are a little more willing to brave the rain when they hear us call them to come inside.
 
The twins haven’t felt rain yet, but if they’re anything like their siblings – especially Po – rain will be an unnerving sensation to experience for the first time. I am referring to one particular day when Po was asleep outside and it started to rain. I believe it was her first time experiencing a sudden, steady rain. I wasn’t working that day, but the keeper who was told me they had never seen her move so fast!  She had been asleep on the storm drain in the moat (one of her favorite places to sleep) and was refusing to come inside when we called her. Then it started to rain. In a flash she went from snoozing to high-tailing out of the moat and running inside the building in a blur of black-and-white fur.
Jen W
Keeper I, Carnivores
 
Friday, March 14
For enrichment today, we gave everyone feeder toys. For Yang Yang, Po, and Lun Lun and twins, these consisted of hanging balls with holes in them, which we then stuffed with biscuits and produce. Xi Lan's enrichment was a little different. His feeder toy came in the form of a braided bit of firehose, which was hung from the climbing stucture in his habitat outside, with biscuits and produce stuffed into the braids.
 
It was fun to watch all four adult/subadult bears playing with their feeder toys today. As usual, Mei Lun and Mei Huan spent most of their day up in the climbing structure playing and napping, so they didn't take part in the feeder toy fun. But they did manage to find and eat some of Lun Lun's biscuits before she did!
Jennifer A
Keeper I, Mammals
 
Thursday, March 13
Today is a pretty typical day in Pandaland. Bamboo in. Bamboo out. Bamboo back in. Bamboo out again. Rinse and repeat. All the bears are fairly happy with their bamboo, which makes life much nicer for the keepers and bears alike. Let's just hope it stays this way for a while. 
 
Panda Weights
 
Yang Yang   126 kilograms
Lun Lun 110 kilograms
Xi Lan 100 kilograms
Po 85 kilograms
Mei Huan 15 kilograms
Mei Lun 15.5 kilograms  
 
Kenn H
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Wednesday, March 12
Enrichment ... I know you have heard us talk about it. I love it, and one of the best parts is that you never know when an animal will react with the enrichment you give them and when he or she will just ignore it. A keeper can spend hours, days, weeks and even months creating an enrichment item and sometimes when the keeper gives it to the animal, it’s just ignored. Time to try something else. Other times a keeper will find the most random items and put them in with the animal and he or she will go crazy interacting with it. That is how I felt yesterday was. A fellow keeper and I found a fun way to hang up a huge ball for Xi Lan. We were so excited to see him interact with it, but he could care less when we shifted him in with it. Later that day, when we brought the cubs back in, I gave them a big, silly, kids’ plastic car, no wheels, not even connected, just a thick plastic hood and trunk pushed together. Those cubs spent the next hour playing in it, climbing on it, lying next to it, wrestling inside it, and flipping it over. Who knew such a silly item could be so entertaining for them? I was busy getting everyone ready for the night that I didn't get to spend as much time watching them as I wish I could have, but every time I walked by them, they looked like they were having a blast. 
Mollye N.
Mammals Keeper III

Monday, March 10
Friday afternoon when we shifted Lun Lun inside to give her fresh bamboo, Mei Huan decided to follow her mom inside. Normally, this is a great time to practice shift-training with the cubs. Mei Huan had other ideas, however, which gave the keepers an extra challenge. Since Lun Lun and the cubs were in Dayroom 2 (the one with the teepee), Mei Huan came inside and spent time in the squeeze area. This is still a very exciting jungle gym to play in, so when Lun Lun went back into the dayroom, Mei Huan chose not to follow. Lun Lun didn't seem to mind that Mei Huan wanted to stay back to play, as she only half-heartedly tried to take Mei Huan back into the dayroom with her when we asked. So after a few minutes of calling Mei Huan, we decided to close the door to the dayroom and give Mei Huan a few minutes to play on her own. She seemed to enjoy herself, and when she was finished playing, she shifted back into the dayroom with her mom and sister with no problems.
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, March 7
This week, Lun Lun and the cubs spent a night in one of the dayroom exhibits instead in the dens. This is the first time Lun Lun and these cubs have done this. This was a test run to see how they would react to spending the night in a different area. The cubs did not seem to mind - they slept up in the climbing structure where they normally spend time during the day. Lun Lun, however, has never really been a fan of staying in the dayrooms overnight, and she always makes a huge mess with her bamboo. This night was no exception! We wanted to try putting Lun Lun and the cubs out in a dayroom overnight because it is nice to have some flexibility to move the pandas around for overnights and in the morning. We will probably not do this very often since Lun Lun prefers the dens, but it is good to know that she and the cubs can adjust to new environments well
Heather
Keeper III, Carnivore

Thursday, March 6
This afternoon I gave each cub a small slice of Lun Lun's banana. I got different results from each cub, and it follows the same pattern as most other new things. Mei Lun loved it; Mei Huan couldn’t care less. When I gave the piece to Mei Lun she sat back and immediately, without hesitation, started sucking on the banana instead of chewing on it as the adults do. She sat for a minute or two enjoying the fruit and after she finished that, she actually started chewing on the peel, which is normal as Lun Lun and Yang Yang both eat the whole banana. Mei Huan pretty much ignored the banana and instead went straight for a biscuit. She took her biscuit to the corner of the den and started gnawing on it.
Shauna 
Keeper I, Carnivores
 
Tuesday, March 4
This week the twins’ weights are equal to Po’s weight when she was their age. The twins’ growth rates have been a bit slower than the rates for our previous cubs. This is not uncommon for twins. However, in the last few weeks, their growth rates have increased so that they are now even with Po’s weight at the same age. Mei Lan and Xi Lan were a little heavier at this age. That is not necessarily because they are males. Giant panda males usually weigh more than females as adults, but as cubs and subadults there is no significant difference in weight between the sexes. Mei Lun’s current weight is 14.26 kilograms, and Mei Huan’s current weight is 13.79 kilograms.  
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
 
Monday, March 3
The cubs are starting to really show some enthusiasm for Lun Lun's biscuits. Yesterday, we gave a curious Mei Lun a biscuit to occupy her on the climbing structure while we cleaned the dayroom (it's not very helpful to have a panda cub "helping" you, after all). Mei Huan was busy playing in the branches, so we didn't want to interrupt her from her explorations. As soon as we were finished cleaning the dayroom, Mei Huan noticed that her sister had a biscuit and promptly tried to steal it from her. In the end, it looked like they compromised and each got part of the biscuit!
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals
 
Friday, February 28
We’re often asked if the fact that the cubs are both female will have any bearing on how long the two of them will potentially stay together. We expect that the twins will be weaned at the species-typical age of 18 months. They will continue to live together after they are weaned. Their behavior will tell us when it is time for them to be separated. Subadult giant pandas are usually social and can be housed with other subadults. This normally changes when they reach reproductive maturity, which can be as early as 3.5 years of age for females. With the onset of sexual maturity, giant pandas become increasingly intolerant of other giant pandas, regardless of genetic relatedness or previous relationships. To avoid aggression, it is usually best to house them alone from then on. However, each individual is unique, and some individuals are tolerant of other specific individuals into adulthood. The twins will likely go to China when they’re around 3 years of age and will probably still enjoy being with each other until that age. That means that they probably won’t be separated from each other until sometime after they are in China. We and our colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base monitor the pandas’ behavior closely. If aggressive behavior emerges between the twins, we will be ready to separate them.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 
Thursday, February 27
Mei Lun and Mei Huan have finally outgrown their playpen box. Both cubs learned how to climb out of the box over a month ago, but we have still been able to keep them in there if they were occupied with toys or a biscuit. No more! Now as soon as the cubs are put into the playpen box, they both immediately climb out. The playpen box was very handy for us and a fun place for the cubs while it lasted!
Heather Baker Roberts 
Carnivore Keeper III
 
Tuesday, February 25
Because Xi Lan was sleeping in Monday morning in Dayroom One (the hammock dayroom), I decided to set Lun Lun and the twins up in Dayroom Two. The girls were pretty riled up and playful, so I tried to shift them across the entire building to Dayroom Two. Usually this takes awhile as the twins get distracted by everything on their way through the other panda dens. But Monday was different! Those two were in full wrestle-mode, and when Lun Lun started making her way over to Dayroom Two, her little munchkins decided to join forces and attack Mom as she walked. I used this to my advantage and was able to quickly get them most of the way to the dayroom. Lun ignored them as she walked, but it was really cute to see the cubs try and push each other out of the way in order to be the one who "took Mom down.” They were never successful.  The biggest hurdle on the way to Dayroom Two is always the squeeze area, as it's still a fun place to hang out if you're small enough to fit in all the nooks and crannies. But to my utter delight, Mei Lun was the only one who got distracted, and it was only for a minute. Much sooner than I had anticipated, all three ladies had made it to Dayroom Two.   
Jen Webb
Keeper I, Carnivores
 
Monday, February 24
The cubs are doing really well with their shift training! By this age, all of our cubs have followed Lun Lun out into the exhibit in the mornings. Coming back inside in the afternoons is usually a bit more tricky. At the time we bring Lun Lun inside for the day, the cubs are typically asleep, so shifting them in is difficult, if not impossible, even with Lun Lun's help. However, one day last week, the cubs were awake and playing when it was time for Lun Lun to come inside, so we decided to try to shift in the cubs too.  Mei Huan ran in right away! She ran all the way back into the overnight dens by herself. Mei Lun stayed up on the structure and watched as her mother and sister left the room. Since Mei Lun did not shift in, we needed Lun Lun's help to get her inside. So we asked Lun Lun to go get Mei Lun. Lun Lun went back out into the exhibit and successfully brought Mei Lun inside.
 
As most of you know, Lun Lun has learned this behavior with previous cubs. It is much more difficult for her with twins, because she can only carry one at a time. Oftentimes by the time she gets the second cub into the area we need her in, the first cub has run off again. For this reason, we do not ask Lun Lun to help us get the cubs as often as we have in the past. We do not want her to associate frustration with this behavior. Shifting the cubs inside in the afternoons will be a slower process than will training them to shift out in the mornings. But the cubs are well on their way to learning to come in at night. 
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III
 

Thursday, February 20
I can't believe how much those little gals have grown. I guess that is what they do: grow up so fast. It’s the same with the lion cubs. They are so big and are running around, playing, stalking, and chasing after Mom and each other. It’s funny how they are so different from the panda cubs. Our gals prefer to chill on top of the structures in the dayrooms, relax, occasionally play with each other, or climb on anything and everything. Lun Lun doesn't have to move far to watch them. It’s not the same for our lioness, Kiki. She is constantly running around watching and playing with her cubs. The moment she gets a break, the cubs attack her and tug on her ears and tail. It's interesting how different parenting is for these moms. Props to both of them! 
Katie
Mammal Keeper I

Monday, February 17
We celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday the 15th here at the Zoo. Many of the animals received special holiday-themed enrichment, including, of course, the pandas. The three older ones, Yang Yang, Xi Lan and Po, each received themed boxes, heart-shaped papier mache, and themed paper link chains. The boxes and papier mache, of course, had treats hidden inside. Each panda had his or her own way of getting to the treats. Yang ripped his open, but in such a way that he could essentially use it as a plate to hold his treats. Xi Lan opened the box just enough to shove his whole head in to retrieve the goodies. Po, who was in a particularly playful mood, decided that the box and the paper chains needed to be ripped to shreds! 

Because the cubs are still a bit young to enjoy box enrichment, Lun Lun and the cubs received the themed paper chains. Because that sort of enrichment doesn't involve food, Lun decided she had more important things to do, like eat. While the cubs were snuggled up in their spots on the structure, we placed the paper around them. They were unsure at first, just sort of smelling it a bit, especially Mei Lun. After a minute or so of smelling, she actually started trying to bite at it and explore it with her mouth. Of course after all her exertion of energy exploring for a few minutes, it was naptime. The next time we refreshed Lun's bamboo, we also resituated the paper chains and this time, the cubs both got up and explored. They watched as we moved the chains into place. When we were done, they both began mouthing and pawing at the chains. This exploration continued for a couple more minutes before it was time for another nap.
Shauna 
Keeper I, Carnivores

Wednesday, February 12
It was a quiet day at the Zoo yesterday. We are closed again due to this crazy weather, but the bears don’t seem to notice. They are all tucked inside, not due to the cold, but to the rainy weather. They do not care for the rain. We did put the cubs in a new place yesterday: Den 4. It is a long way to shift them from their normal areas, but eventually they made it. Of course they had to climb on everything new they came in contact with on their way. Mei Lun almost didn’t leave her den. She was having too much fun climbing and swinging on a piece of bamboo that was wedged in an angle. Climbing seems to be the exciting thing these days. They can’t get enough of it.
Mollye N.
Mammal Keeper III

Tuesday, February 11
We regularly receive messages in which people express their concern about Lun Lun sometimes being rough with her cubs. For my study of giant panda maternal behavior, I have spent hundreds of hours observing mothers with their cubs. They are all amazingly gentle with their newborn cubs and gradually become rougher as the cubs grow bigger and stronger. Lun Lun is a normal giant panda mom, and her behavior is appropriate for the age of her cubs. Giant pandas are bears, and bears are very tough animals. Behavior that looks rough and potentially painful to us, is playful and harmless to them. The twins are very strong now and have very thick coats. They play roughly with each other and with their mother. This is normal and developmentally appropriate for them.

Lun Lun’s play behavior is actually gentler than you might think. If you watch her closely, you will notice that she practices self-handicapping when playing with her cubs. For example, she usually plays in a reclining position, so that the cubs have access to bite and paw swat all parts of her body. You can also compare the vigor of the cubs’ biting behavior and Lun Lun’s. You will notice that she holds back and does not shake her head back and forth when biting like the cubs do. These are examples of Lun Lun making herself a more evenly matched play partner for her cubs. So, although she might look like she is treating them roughly, she is actively modifying her behavior to more closely match the strength and size of the cubs. 
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Monday, February 10
It's been awhile since I've worked with the pandas, and things have definitely changed over the last couple of months. Since I previously spent most of my time with Lun Lun and the cubs, I am enjoying getting to know our other pandas better. They all have very different personalities as well as likes and dislikes. I recently learned that Yang Yang enjoys large pieces of produce. We usually cut the pandas' fruit and veggies into bite-sized chunks, which makes it easier to provide reinforcement for training or enrichment. But large pieces, and even whole produce, are favorite enrichment items for him. How do we know? He makes this incredibly cute, very soft vocalization that the keepers have dubbed "The Happy Panda Noise."
Jennifer A.
Keeper I, Mammals

Friday, February 7
Since the twins are getting better and better at "shifting" (moving from one location to another, via an animal door keepers open), we've been putting the little family group in Dayroom 2 more. This is the other dayroom that does not contain the infamous hammock. Instead it contains a “teepee” structure that the girls love to climb. Because the optimal place to snooze is at the top of the structure, which is above our heads, it can be a challenge to remove the twins unless they come down on their own. So, now that the girls are pretty good about coming when we call, we've started using this exhibit more often. The other advantage is that it allows the other pandas access to the dayroom with the hammock. A third advantage? It gives the keepers more options when playing "musical pandas" in the morning when we're trying to shuffle everyone to his or her end destination!

The downside (why is there always a downside?): in order to get to Dayroom 2, a panda has one of two options – going through Dayroom 1 (the hammock dayroom) or going through the “squeeze.” The squeeze is an area all of our pandas are extremely comfortable with. No, they don't have to squeeze their bodies into a tiny space; the squeeze is actually a cage on wheels inside a tunnel of sorts. When we have to perform physicals that require anesthesia, or when Lun Lun performs her voluntary ultrasounds, or in any other situation that requires more direct contact, we can ask the bears to enter the squeeze, secure the doors, and wheel the whole thing out, giving us better access to the panda. While inside the "tunnel,” the squeeze is not completely immobile and can move a small amount. The grown pandas couldn't care less ... and the twins think this new place is the greatest jungle gym in the whole entire world (as have their big brothers and sister when they were the same age)! They're able to squeeze their bodies and climb all around the area, whereas the adults can only walk through. So needless to say, getting the twins to leave the squeeze has become a little challenging. Even Lun Lun has had a hard time trying to wrangle both kids to follow her. She'll grab one and haul her into the dayroom, turn around to get the other, and before she knows it the first cub is back inside! The most favorite spot is in-between the squeeze and the mesh of the outer "tunnel.” The cubs get really cozy and/or playful and don't want to leave the spot … and poor Lun has no way of getting to them because she can't fit. But don't fret! She never, ever gets stressed, because the cubs aren't stressed since they can very easily get out. I think they like being out of Mom's reach! Eventually the cubs all get over the fun-ness of the squeeze. Unfortunately the twins are feeding off each other's excitement, so it might take a bit longer!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores
 

Tuesday, February 4
Cubs playing and climbing never gets old. Many times the cubs are asleep at the top of their climbing structure on exhibit, but if you are lucky, you can be here when they are climbing and playing. Yesterday, when we shifted them out, a fellow keeper had leaned bamboo against the log they use to get on top of their climbing structure. Mei Lun usually races to get on top of the structure as soon as we let her out. It was fun watching her with this new challenge of having bamboo in her way. She weaved her body through it, sometimes sliding down the log with the bamboo, but not giving up. Eventually she made it through the bamboo maze, and the rest was easy as she found her favorite spot and went to sleep. Mei Huan will sometimes investigate the habitat before deciding to follow her sister up the climbing structure. Yesterday was one of those days. We turned one of their big plastic toys upside down so it would rock back and forth. She spent a good 10 minutes playing on it, trying to climb on top as it weebled back and forth. She would make it most of the way on, and it would start to flip toward her till she was standing back on the ground. She would then try climbing the other side. Occasionally she would stop and start chewing on it. Eventually she made it all the way on top without it tipping. She probably held on for only a few seconds that way before she moved and the whole thing tipped over again, sliding her body off. After she made it all the way on, I think her accomplishment was over for the day because she left to go join her sister on the climbing structure. Of course there was still bamboo in the way, but Mei Lun knocked it down enough that climbing through it looked easier for Mei Huan than it had been for Mei Lun. Once at the top, she joined her sister for a nap.
Mollye N.
Mammal Keeper III

Monday, February 3
I'm often asked what's the hardest part of my job as a panda keeper. Right away I always answer: "Knowing what type and how much bamboo to offer the pandas." Cleaning is pretty easy, albeit tedious. Offering the correct species of bamboo and the correct amount is the challenging part. When we’re cleaning up after the pandas, you may notice that we inspect the bamboo. We're looking to see not only what species they preferred (we almost always offer at least two different species), but also which specific bamboo pieces of that species they ate. It's up to us, as their caretakers, to figure it out. There's mature bamboo vs. young bamboo (young bamboo usually has a white circle around the node of the stalk, aka culm); thin vs. thick culms; light-colored culm vs. the darker pieces; smaller leaves vs. larger leaves; lighter leaves vs. darker leaves; etc. Our pandas always love the "tops,” which are the pieces of bamboo that come from the very top of a bamboo tree. If they reject that piece, we know we're in for a tough day in terms of pleasing the bears. 

The other hard part is figuring out how much bamboo to offer. We want to give the bears enough bamboo to keep them happy until they get their next feeding. We don't want to give them too much, because they may fall asleep with a full belly and completely ignore us as we try to bring them inside for dinner so we can go home! As a keeper, you quickly figure out how much you should offer because when you don't offer enough, the pandas are quick to let you know their bellies aren't full yet!
 
These past few days, Xi Lan and Po have been very difficult to please. Being sub-adults, they sometimes aren't happy with their bamboo simply because they want attention. Often, if we have a good training session or spend a good five to10 minutes interacting with these two, they'll happily spend the rest of the day eating. Unlike their parents, the sub-adults seem to desire daily attention from their keepers. This isn't surprising as they still have a little "cub mentality" left in them (although some might argue that Yang Yang never grew out of that mentality!). Unfortunately, there are days when even attention from us isn't good enough. It's on those days when we utilize the "bamboo" command. With this behavior, we ask the pandas to take a bite of bamboo, in return for a leafeater biscuit. This ensures that they eat bamboo, it gives them quality time with their keepers, and it reduces everybody's stress levels! We've been taking advantage of this trained behavior these past couple of days with Xi and Po because even if they're grumpy, they still need to eat!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores
 

 

Xi Lan enjoying the snow! Photo by Keeper I, Carnivores, Jen W.

Thursday, January 30
As many of you have heard, we have had quite the snowstorm that came through the past two days. Although it has been tough out there on the roads, it was quite the winter wonderland scene here at the Zoo. The first day it snowed, the keepers decided to let some of our animals experience the snow. For the younger pandas, it was their first time to see snow. The twins had a lot of fun playing in the snow that we brought into the building for them. They were eating the snow and shoving each other’s faces in it. It was quite hilarious. We also let Xi Lan and Yang Yang outside in the habitats to experience the snow. Today they just sat and ate their bamboo like they normally do. Then it was Po’s turn. At first she was hesistant, but then she started rolling around in the snow. It was very funny to watch.

 
The elephants were given access to their snowy exhibit too. They came out walked around for a bit and then went right back inside their barn. The carnivore keepers let Sanjiv and Chelsea tigers out in the snow. Chelsea poked her head out and then turned around and went right back inside. Sanjiv was slow to come out, but then ran out and was very playful. He scent-marked his exhibit and smelled the snow. 
 
It's always a fun experience seeing how different animals enjoy new enrichment like snow.
 
Stay tuned to see what unfolds next ...
Katie G.
Mammals Keeper 1

Wednesday, January 29
As many of you probably heard, Atlanta received some snow yesterday. While the snow and ice are making life a real headache for the people here in Atlanta, it is absolutely heaven for the giant panda population. We have had the bears outside in the yards since the snow started to fall. We started out yesterday morning with Yang Yang and Xi Lan outside. As the snow started falling, they both were enjoying their bamboo and were acted as nothing was happening. As the snow started to accumulate, they became more excited and began playing, which consisted of rolling, self anointing, and a bunch of running. They also spent a lot of time at the howdy window as well, interacting with each other, until the urge to run wild hit them again, and they were off only to return to the window shortly afterwards.  Po got her chance to see snow for the first time later in the afternoon.  Upon going out, she was rather hesitant, and tested the ground with great care. After about five  minutes, she was in absolutely out of her mind.  I have not seen her play so hard in quite a long time.  She covered herself in white powder from head to toe, and couldn't get enough of it. As the saying goes though, all good things must come to an end, and we needed to bring the pandas in for the night, thus ending their play day. No worries though, they started right back up when the keepers arrived and put them outside this morning at 8 a.m. On a side note, although the cubs cannot go outside as of yet, this morning we were able to fill a barrel full of snow and give it to them. Much like Po, they had to inspect it for a while, but after a few minutes, they were all in.  They are having a great time playing, digging, chewing, and wrestling. I am watching them as I write this and they have been at it for over 45 minutes now with no end in sight.  
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Monday, January 27
As a panda keeper, it is safe to say that bamboo rules my life. We offer our pandas about 400 pounds of bamboo in a 24-hour period! They eat about a third of what we offer, but we give them so much more so they can choose among the pieces we offer them -- some peices/bundles are pleasing to the pandas and some are not. If we have a good harvest of bamboo, the pandas are happy and the day goes much smoother. If the pandas do not like the bamboo, they are unhappy and we cannot do much except offer extra biscuit feedings or other enrichment to keep them content until we get the next harvest in. Our bamboo cutters work really hard to find and harvest the bamboos that the pandas eat best. Unfortunately, sometimes things out of our control (and our realm of knowledge) affect the bamboo, like weather conditions, soil conditions, etc., and the pandas do not want to eat what we have on offer.  

This week we are offering a species of bamboo that the pandas only get occasionally. They love this species, but will only eat it when the temperatures are really cold and it is harvested below a certain temperature (one advantage of this ridiculously frigid weather!). This bamboo is rivercane. Rivercane has a long stalk (culm) and very few, small leaves, so the pandas primarily eat the culm. Some years it doesn't get cold enough for the pandas to get it, but this year the weather has been perfect for harvesting rivercane. When the bamboo guys told me they had cut some rivercane on Thursday, I got so excited because I knew the pandas would gobble it up. And I was right! They are loving it! Even the cubs are enjoying playing with this species they have never seen before. Next week's forecast looks like a good one to continue offering rivercane, so we should have a couple of good weeks with very full pandas here at the panda house!
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III

Thursday, January 23
Normally, Lun Lun is cool, calm and collected. She takes motherhood and pretty much everything else in stride. There are a few exceptions to this. For example, she does not like certain noises, including the sounds made by a hand drill and a ratchet. The keepers sometimes use these tools to build or hang enrichment items. Today was one of those days. The keepers are well aware of Lun Lun’s dislike of these sounds. So, they were working on the enrichment item far from Lun Lun’s den area, which is normally okay. That wasn’t far enough away for Lun Lun today. She still heard the noise and let us know she didn’t like it by snorting and honking repetitively. The best way to deal with this situation is to stop the noise and give Lun Lun time to relax. The keepers did that, but it took Lun Lun about 30 minutes to calm down The twins sat behind the scale and were watchful of their mother for about 15 minutes during this. Then sleepiness overcame them and they had a nap. Eventually, Lun Lun settled down and had a big meal of bamboo and biscuits, and then a nap.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals

Wednesday, January 22
A quick update on some non-panda cubs! Monday was an exciting day around Zoo Atlanta. It was such a nice and warm day that the lion cubs went on exhibit for the first time. They were out for less than an hour before mom had enough and corralled them back inside, but nonetheless, it was an exciting afternoon for all. I worked in carnivores earlier this week. A fellow keeper and I got weights on all the lion cubs, and they ranged from 9 kilograms to 10 kilograms. 

Coming back over to pandas again this week and looking at their weights, Mei Lun and Mei Huan are around 9.7 and 9.8 kilograms. The lion cubs have already caught up to them, only being about 2.5 months old, while the panda cubs are over 6 months old. This may seem like a lot, but Kamau, our adult male lion is around 200 kilograms, while Yang Yang our adult male panda, is only around 130 kilograms. It’s been exciting watching all our young ones slowly growing up.
Mollye N.
Mammal Keeper III

Tuesday, January 21
It’s performance appraisal time here at Zoo Atlanta. We’re busy completing our self-evaluations and taking some time to brag about our accomplishments for the year. It’s a busy time for us, but the giant pandas don’t seem to notice. What if we evaluated their performance in 2013?

Collaboration/Teamwork: Mei Lun and Mei Huan need improvement in this area. They frequently bicker over who gets to sit on the top of the climbing structure.  
Goal for 2014: Continue to be super cute.
 
Customer Service: All giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta easily anticipate and meet the needs of our guests. Examples include wrestling cubs, a patient mom and an award-winning sibling.
Goal for 2014: Continue to be awesome.
 
Communication: Yang Yang, Lun Lun, Xi Lan and Po work well together to let their keepers know when they’re unhappy with their bamboo. They emit a variety of vocalizations and also utilize body postures (i.e., pouting) to indicate their displeasure.
Goal for 2014: Continue to provide job security to the keepers.
 
Planning and organization: Yang Yang uses his time wisely and sets logical priorities. For example, in 2013 he regularly ate and slept, and ate and slept again.
Goal for 2014: Continue to be a handsome and goofy dad.
 
Overall, I give the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta a rating of 5 out of 5. Outstanding!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Thursday, January 16
The other morning, Xi Lan decided to sleep late. This is normally never an issue, and we let the pandas sleep as long as they need. This day, however, Xi Lan was fast asleep in the dayroom where Lun Lun and the cubs spend their days on exhibit. Without any hope of waking up Xi Lan, the decision was made to try Lun Lun and the cubs in the other dayroom. We were curious if they would be able to use the climbing structure of if they would be forced to spend their day being terrestrial. We were betting that they would try and try to get up in the structure, but they probably would  not be able to achieve the summit. Much to our surprise, both Mei Lun and Mei Huan immediately went to the structure and started to climb. Within five minutes, both of them were in the top of the structure checking everything out and even doing a little wrestling with each other. The excitement only lasted about another 20 minutes though, as they both curled up together in the crook in the top of the structure and dozed the rest of the morning away.   
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores

Monday, January 13
Guess what the cubs discovered recently? That's right, biscuits! While their teeth are still quite small and their jaws aren't strong enough to chew the biscuits yet, they still manage pretty well gumming them and softening the biscuits with their saliva. It takes them a good five to 10 minutes at least just to be able to soften the biscuits enough to begin eat them. And that's just with half biscuits. This is a good way to keep them still for a minute when they need to be weighed, which is a really hard thing to do at that age. Playtime is all the time and everything is a play toy, including the bin that we place them in when weighing them. Speaking of weights, they have both officially broken the 9 kilogram mark!
Shauna 
Keeper I, Carnivores

Thursday, January 9
Starting a couple of weeks ago, we started leaving the "howdy" door open between the two outdoor exhibits. The "howdy" is actually two doors. One part is a solid piece, and the other is a steel mesh door. When the solid part is raised, the mesh door allows the pandas in each outdoor yard to see and smell each other without allowing them to be in the same habitat. We use this door mostly during introductions between Lun Lun and Yang Yang during  breeding season or to introduce cubs to the other pandas. With the solid door open now, we normally see one panda looking through the door at the other panda, but don't normally see too much interaction between the pandas. On Wednesday, however, there was some real action at the door.

I guess the stars and the moon all lined up just right, because Yang Yang and Xi Lan both showed a lot of interest in each other at the same time. There was a bunch of rolling and rubbing, along with a lot of chirps, bleats and other vocalizations. These interactions occurred multiple times throughout the day, and both of the boys seemed to really enjoy the experience. When these sorts of events happen, we always get comments and questions from visitors wondering why we don't simply leave the howdy open and let the pandas share a common space where they can wrestle and play. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, there are multiple reasons why we do not open the door and give the pandas physical access to each other.  
 
The first reason is that adult pandas are solitary animals in the wild, and we like to maintain this status here at the Zoo as well. The second and most important reason is that if the pandas were put together, what we would get would not be play-fighting. Yang Yang and Lun Lun were raised together and were housed together during the day for a long time after they arrived here at Zoo Atlanta. They used to wrestle and play a bunch when they were both young and about the same size. When they got a bit older and started entering adulthood, we still attempted to house them together as much as possible. Yang Yang, much larger than Lun Lun at this time, started taking these "play" bouts to the next level. He became much more aggressive, and the interaction sometimes ended up in an actual fight. When Yang Yang caused an injury to Lun Lun, although it was minor, we knew that they needed to be separated on a permanent basis.  
 
What happened between Yang Yang and Lun Lun back then is exactly what we would expect to happen if we were to place any of our adult or subadult pandas together now. This was illustrated last year when we attempted to put Xi Lan and Po together to see if they would enjoy interacting with each other. Xi Lan, much larger at the time, became rough with Po, and they were separated before it could escalate to actual aggression resulting in injury. We believe that it is very enriching and enjoyable for the pandas to be able to see, smell, and interact with each other, but we also realize that if the pandas were given access to each other, fighting resulting in injuries could occur.  This is especially likely in the case of Yang Yang and Xi Lan, because they are both males and Xi Lan is entering reproductive maturity. Adult male giant pandas are aggressive with each other, especially during the breeding season which is starting now. This is the reason we use the "howdy" door to provide social interaction, instead of putting the pandas together.
Kenn H.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores
 

Wednesday, January 8
We don’t observe many instances of protective behavior by Lun Lun, because she and her cubs live in a safe environment. But occasionally Lun Lun has to come to the rescue of one of her cubs. For example, Po fell in the pool once and Lun Lun rushed over to check on her and make sure she got out. Po was nearly 2 years old at the time and fully capable of climbing out of the pool on her own. But I guess because Po fell it triggered a protective reaction from Lun Lun. 

Yesterday, provided another example of Lun Lun coming to the rescue. She was pulling bamboo into the dayroom from the feeding panel. The bamboo lightly hit Mei Huan and startled her. She made a very loud vocalization. In reaction, Lun Lun ran over to Mei Huan and stood over her, so that Mei Huan was covered by Lun Lun’s body. Mei Huan was fine and soon went about her normal explorations. Lun Lun returned to eating, but she was unsettled for a few minutes and went over to Mei Huan to check on her a couple of times. Lun Lun is a great mom, and it’s always fun to see further evidence of this. Mei Lun didn’t show any concern for her sister. She slept through the entire thing!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
 

Tuesday, January 7
Brrr! It’s been frigid in Atlanta these past few days! Practically all of the animals at Zoo Atlanta got to spend their days inside their holding areas where it was toasty warm (jealous!). Our pandas, however, are built for this kind of weather, so they’ve been getting to go outside for parts of the day to enjoy the crisp weather. Their thick fur helps to keep them nice and warm. In case you're wondering, Lun Lun and the twins did not go outside, as the cubs are still a little too young, and it would be pretty cold for them. Even though our adult pandas are built for this weather, I think they’d be just as happy inside where their environment is a little more climate-controlled (can we say spoiled?). Hope everyone is staying warm! I’ve got more layers on than I can count!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Monday, January 6
Mei Huan has finally discovered her sister’s hiding spot. On Sunday, we were getting ready to give Lun Lun fresh bamboo and the twins their “lunchtime” formula bottle and found Mei Huan had climbed to the top of the structure and was wrestling with her sister in the little branchy nook the cubs always like to wedge themselves into. This is the first time we’ve seen Mei Huan climb that high into the structure. If you remember, Mei Lun had conquered the structure weeks ago, so we’re quite happy to see Mei Huan follow suit! When we were getting ready to feed the twins their formula that day, we called the girls inside from the shift door (after having already brought Lun inside). Shifting inside from a fun place like the dayrooms has always been a challenge for all of the cubs, and it’s understandable! The structures are a great jungle gym! Because of this, we’re starting to teach the girls that coming inside can be just as rewarding, because we can’t always rely on Lun Lun to wrangle both of them into following her.  

To start the process off, we were by the shift door, visible to the cubs, and calling them to come inside using the command “shift.” We want the cubs to associate hearing the shift door open with wanting to come inside to get a reward. The cubs will usually come when they see us, which is why we were at the shift door. In a few days I hope to be out of eyesight and still have them at least look over when the shift door open, if not come running. It’ll be a long process and I fully expect to be ignored half the time, because trying to convince a sleepy cub (or an entertained one) to leave the structure is usually difficult. We managed to encourage Mei Huan to climb down the structure and come inside (the way she trotted over to us was pretty cute). Mei Lun wasn’t as interested, so we had to go in and get her. Oh well, baby steps it is!
Jen W.
Keeper I, Carnivores

Friday, January 3
As Rebecca reported yesterday, it wasn’t an ideal day to be a giant panda or a giant panda keeper, due to the rain. Today, however, is a lot better, at least for the pandas. Obviously they’re well-suited for the cooler weather and the fact that it’s dry (more like, frozen) is a bonus for them. When we have weather like this, we have plenty of outdoor space for the giant pandas to enjoy, which makes it easier for the keepers to shift Lun Lun and the cubs into one of the dayrooms. The keepers, however, are likely not thrilled with this drastic change in temperature.  When the pandas go outside, it means that the keepers go outside as well. The habitats needs to be checked before we give the pandas access to them and of course, they need to be provided with their bamboo.  The giant panda building isn’t all that warm, but it probably feels great compared to what it’s like outside today!  
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals

Thursday, January 2
Yesterday's shifting lesson for the cubs was a bit of a disaster! For three days in a row, both cubs shifted out into the dayroom with their mother very well! Then it all started to fall apart. As Mollye has mentioned, if the cubs are sleepy, it is more difficult for Lun Lun to get them to follow her, so we cannot work on shift training when they are sleepy. As with all training, especially with very young animals, we expect there to be a learning curve -- sometimes we take two steps forward, then three steps backward! Yesterday morning, the girls were awake and playing with Lun Lun, so we decided to try shift training with them. Mei Lun euthusiastically followed her mother all the way to the dayroom. Mei Huan was dragging her feet. Everything between the dens and the dayroom was way more interesting than following her mom -- a leaf, the doorway to an outdoor exhibit, the mesh! Poor Lun Lun was trying so hard to retrieve the cubs as we asked her to, but Mei Huan was just not cooperating.  Everytime she gathered Mei Lun by the doorway and turned to get Mei Huan, then Mei Lun ran back to play with her sister. We finally let Lun Lun go eat, hoping the cubs would follow her out, but only Mei Lun did so. Mei Huan wanted to play in the hallway just outside the dayroom, and we could not convince her otherwise. Eventually, we had to bring Lun Lun back inside, separate her from the cubs, and carry them out to the dayroom. We appreciate everyone's patience as we work on training the cubs to go out into the dayroom!
Heather R.
Carnivore Keeper III