The Cub's 13th Month
August 7: Something Besides the Weather Is Hot
Tai Shan now weighs 62 pounds. He has been seen consuming bamboo for as much as 15 to 20 minutes at a time. We also have seen Tai stripping the culm, or stalk, of bamboo and eating this especially tough part of the plant. It is not unusual now to find mini bamboo-filled green droppings in the enclosures.
Tai Shan recently touched his first hot wire. We all cringe when an animal does this. Hot wires and vines are used to reinforce the perimeter of the yard as well as protect selected trees. In his current yard the only hot wire runs along the perimeter. Tai was climbing the mesh at the back of the yard, next to the fence along Tian's enclosure when he touched the wire. Tai let out a sharp bark, immediately backed down the mesh, and went up the willow tree for comfort. Mei Xiang, startled by his bark came up to investigate the cause, and finding nothing, continued on her own course. About a half hour later, Tai came down from the tree to play. We have not seen him climb the mesh again. Hot wires deliver a mild shock, which while very startling does not inflict any physical harm. Animals learn quickly to avoid these wires and the areas they protect.
August 4: The Panda Days of Summer
Tai Shan continues to linger inside after Mei Xiang shifts outdside each morning. He is very sleepy and, after a few scratches, tucks himself back in for an extra half hour to hour of sleep. Then he is ready to roll. Out he heads to the yard to convince Mei, who is just settling in for a nap, to play. We have seen him pester her to the point where she just moves into the grotto to get away from him. Tai usually continues to play on his own until his energy is spent, before heading to the grotto. Tai then rests for long periods in the water-chilled grotto alongside Mei. At first she would push him out, but now they create quite the artful study of two pandas sleeping. By about 11 a.m. every day recently, the temperature has climbed above 90 degrees, all the pandas are ready for the air-conditioned indoor enclosures.
It is interesting to note that during these past hot, steamy weeks Tai's tree preference has switched to the cryptomeria tree, which offers more shade when he is tucked into its sweeping branches. Tai also has a new resting place on the patio. When he is tired of dangling his feet from the top of the ceiling conduit, he moves over to drape himself over the top of the pedestal scale. I have to say it... this looks very cute! It is amazing how he can find comfort just about anywhere.
July 28: A Growth Spurt
Tai Shan weighed in this morning at 61.5 pounds. He seems to be going through a major growth spurt, gaining five pounds in 20 days! We always have to keep in mind how much extra weight he carries in consumed bamboo and fibrous poop. Tai has discovered a new trick to play on Mei Xiang when we are shifting them indoors and Mei goes inside first. Tai usually lingers behind on his own schedule. Up onto the top of the scale he climbs. Once on top, he can stretch across to stick his head and shoulders through the window in the door, to peek at Mei. We will be discouraging this behavior!
July 24: Celebrations, Frozen Treats, and Bat Imitations
We still cannot believe what a ham Tai Shan was on his first birthday! He ambled outdoors right on time, alongside Mei Xiang, building up the tension in the throng of onlookers. His first discovery was his new baby pool, where he walked its edge and dipped his paws in the water to fish for pieces of floating fruit. One at a time, Tai and Mei noticed a giant frozen surprise, taller than any panda on all fours, right in their path. This custom-made frozen treat, prepared by Zoo nutritionists, was made of bamboo leaves, carrots, pears, beets, apples, and apple juice suspended in ice. As they sniffed out this strange presence in their yard, both Tai and Mei had their ears as far forward and eyes as wide open as we have ever seen them. After a few minutes of reflection, they went for it. Tai's famous pose with frozen cake for his pandarazzi and Mei's appropriately absconding with the icy 1 are now part of panda fan history.
On July 20, Tai Shan and Mei Xiang celebrated the ten millionth visitor to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat with a new and very special treat—baby pools filled with ice cubes—purchased through a generous donation by a group of passionate panda fans who call themselves Pandas Unlimited. We never leave Tian Tian out of the special activities, even though everyone's attention is on the dynamic duo. While Mei and Tai sedately nibbled bamboo and fruit pieces over ice, Tian polished his off in no time. Tian proceeded to dive into his pool with his massive head and shoulders, sending ice flying as the pool was crushed under his weight. Tian rolled on his back in the ice with all four legs in the air before trying to dive in head first all over again. We were amused to see that there were ice cubes imbedded in his fur, especially on his rear end when he finally moved off to find some more bamboo.
Tai Shan has recently chosen to linger indoors on a few very hot mornings. The blast of hot and humid air deters even our most determined panda cub. Tai has cranked up his exploration skills while indoors and has investigated every inch of his indoor space, with special attention given to the windows and doors. Tai has figured out the limits to which his body can stretch up walls. He also has calculated that he really is too big to squeeze through those small openings now. The mesh is fun to climb but the conduit near the ceiling is fantastic for bat imitations. As hard as he tries whether right side up or hanging upside down, we now know his hiding place. We remember when Mei Xiang first arrived, how she had us all looking for her as she hung like a flying fox from this very spot, watching all those silly humans who forgot to look up overhead for a panda.
July 9: Tai Shan Is One Year Old Today!
We can't believe Tai is already a year old. We hope you have been enjoying watching him grow on the web cams, updates, and photos. Check out this new slide show of Tai's first 12 months. Thanks to everyone who has wished our little boy a happy birthday, especially those of you who sent a birthday card.
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