Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's 14th Week

October 14: These Claws Were Made for Climbing

Mei Xiang climbed up and played in one of the small trees outside yesterday. Her favorite tree is a large mature willow in Tian's yard. Pandas are strong climbers, and trees make safe resting areas for young pandas. Our little boy has very long and very sharp claws. When we do our examinations they hook on everything. They certainly will give him good traction when he starts to climb. In the meantime he is still figuring out how to walk.

October 13: The Cub's Four-foot Feat

The cub stood up and turned around a few times this morning. There has not been a repeat of his quadrupedal feat, but now we know this secret since Mei Xiang was absent during his walkabout. We all wonder how she is going to react when he takes off right in front of her.

Mei Xiang spent most of yesterday away from the cub, wandering indoors and out, foraging on bamboo and grasses.

October 12: At Eighth Exam, Cub Weighs 12.7 Pounds

cub during October 12 examHis majesty had his eighth exam this morning. He weighs 12.7 pounds and is 25.5 inches long. He has his incisors and canines now, both upper and lower ones. Shall we say "ouch" for Mei Xiang? Right after all the stimulation of the 16-minute exam, the cub walked around the den, to the other side of the platform and into the other half of the den. He then returned to his corner and later traveled again, all the way to the other side. click toSee how he's grown.

October 11: Cub Pushes Against Mei

When Mei Xiang holds the cub to wash or restrict his movements, he actively pushes against her with his front feet. He continues to work on crawling and walking off and on throughout the day. We are really looking forward to next Monday, when we will announce the cub's name and can start referring to him by name instead of "the cub".

It is another gray, rainy morning. All the pandas are sleeping. Mei rested flat on her back for quite a while in one of the indoor exhibits, making us all comment on how comfortable she looked as we secretly longed to be back in bed.

October 10: Grazing in the Grass

Mei Xiang shifted outdoors this morning and, after eating, fell asleep on the grotto next to the construction. This is the first time she has rested here since the birth. The cub has had a quiet morning sleeping.

When Mei Xiang is outdoors, she grazes on grasses and dwarf bamboo in addition to the food the keepers have provided. Bears of most species will spent time consuming a considerable amount of plant material such as grasses, leaves, fruits, tubers, and roots. Enriched zoo enclosures offer bears an opportunity to forage and display more natural feeding behaviors. Our previous pandas would also eat willow, but Mei Xiang and Tian Tian do not show much interest in eating it. Some of us recall how Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing would lie on their backs under the weeping willows, nibbling on the green cascade of early spring leaves.

October 9: A Perturbed Mei Xiang

The cub spent this morning trying to crawl and walk. After he tried for several minutes, he became very vocal and squealed loudly. It really seemed as though he had gotten tired and cranky from all the effort. Mei Xiang, who had been locked outdoors so the keeper could begin cleaning, became quite frantic to get back to him. We quickly opened the door and Mei returned even more quickly. She picked him up and began to wash him. He protests these washes now, trying to squirm away. All this put Mei Xiang in a very anxious mood this morning. She restlessly wandered through the exhibits, not resting or eating for long, and returned frequently to check on and rest near the active cub. When she went back outdoors, she gave us a wheezy huff through the mesh, letting us know she is indeed quite perturbed by this new development.

October 8: Mei Xiang Appears Uncomfortable with Cub's Movements

The cub—13 weeks old today—continues to try to crawl. He is now able to travel forward about four feet. Yesterday, as Mei Xiang was resting on the platform, she seemed to become annoyed by his movement. She actually whined at him from the platform before moving over to where he struggled on the floor. Taking him by the scruff of his neck, she pulled him closer to her and then stood over him, preventing him from moving away.

How does she know that I just wrote about her not vocalizing to the cub? This always happens when you work with animals. Just when you think there is a pattern to their behavior, they change it. It will be interesting to watch how long it takes for her to be comfortable with his movements in the den and ultimately in the exhibit.

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