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The Cub's 15th Week

October 21: At Ninth Exam, Cub Weighs 14.1 Pounds

Keeper Brenda Morgan holds Tai Shan as Chief Veterinarian Suzan Murray listens to his heart.

Tai Shan had his ninth exam this morning. He weighs 14.1 pounds and is 27.1 inches long, an increase of 1.4 pounds and 1.6 inches since his last exam on October 12. His molars are now erupting. He received his third canine distemper vaccination. He reacted with a sharp bark today when he was stuck with the needle. Ouch! Otherwise, he was quiet throughout the exam.

October 20: Mei and Tai Sleep Through Construction

Mei Xiang slept through today's construction noise test. She only twitched her ear a few times, probably in response to Tai Shan stirring in the hay. He twitched his entire body as he slept through the noise. Each quiver really makes us think we can see him growing. Tai's hair is so long now that his solid little body is surrounded by a thick and fuzzy ball of fur.

This morning, we placed our carefully selected tree limbs in the new panda enclosures that are part of the new Asia Trail. These large, forked snags will give our pandas plenty of exercise as well as lots of elevated branches on which to repose. Limbs that are placed so that they move a bit, and can be made to bounce, are popular with pandas both young and old. We look forward to seeing our pandas and particularly Tai Shan exploring their newest piece of the great outdoors next year.

October 19: Tai Shan Mouths a Piece of Bamboo

Yesterday, we put Tai Shan in the indoor exhibit again. During this relocation the cub made sucking sounds and attempted to nurse, confirming to us that, through his eyes, we are still just another version of his mother. Tai was able to walk back into the den on his own twice. Both times, he was stopped short by the barred barrier that divides the den. Apparently, he still is working on recognizing obstacles and shifting directions. During the relocation he began to vocalize. Mei, who was outside, heard his calls and paced at the mesh until the door was opened. She then walked quickly to Tai, picked him up by the scruff of his neck, and returned him to his proper place in the den. She settled into the task of washing him, followed by a long rest on the platform in the den. She remained in the den for four and half hours. Over the course of the day, she spent just 50 minutes in contact with the cub.

This morning little Tai Shan was seen mouthing a narrow stem of bamboo! He did this for several minutes using the front and side of his mouth. Well, here is yet another example of how advanced he is!

October 18: Tai Shan, Ambassador for Friendship and Conservation

Mei Xiang was away from Tai Shan all day yesterday except for about five visits, which totaled 69 minutes. We collect these data during our ongoing 12-hour watch, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tai Shan spent this most auspicious 100th-day celebration of his life and the proclamation of his name, asleep on his back in the den. Tai Shan, our "peaceful mountain," was truly at peace in his remote den.

It is so nice to have a name for the cub! It is also very special that our little ambassador for friendship between China and the U.S., as well as for conservation, now has a name that means "peace." Tai Shan continues to crawl and sometimes walk around the den. He is slowly improving, especially when Mei is away and he is free to do as he chooses.

October 17: The Cub Is Named Tai Shan!

This morning at about 8:40 a.m., National Zoo Director John Berry announced the name of our giant panda cub to great fanfare at the naming ceremony, which included entertainment from two traditional Chinese dance troupes. Tai Shan (tie SHON), which means "peaceful mountain" in Chinese, was the clear favorite among the more than 200,000 votes we received in our naming contest. Congratulations to Tai Shan, now 100 days old, on his most fitting name!

October 16: First Sign of Play?

Yesterday afternoon, Mei Xiang was resting on her platform, watching the cub move about. Suddenly the cub stretched up and touched its nose to Mei Xiang's, and then swatted her with his paw. We think this is the first sign that the cub is ready to play. Mei came down from the platform and picked the cub up. While squirming in her arms, the cub swatted her again. Mei Xiang put him down and tried to cuddle him between herself and the wall. When he continued to squirm, as if protesting, she put him down and began to wash his face but he tried to resist this as well. Finally, he just went to sleep—it seems all that wiggling wore him out!

October 15: Cub Is 14 Weeks Old Today

Every few days in the next weeks, we will continue to move the cub from his den to one of the exhibit enclosures. We're doing this for two reasons. We want Mei Xiang to get comfortable with her cub being outside of the den. We also want to expose the cub to the sights and sounds of a bigger world. Proceeding very cautiously, we are gauging both Mei Xiang's and the cub's reactions to these moves, to better determine when both are ready for the visiting public.

Some web cam viewers have asked why we shift the cam to another view when we work with the cub. We have no secrets, but, unlike the pandas, who are completely unaware they are being watched, keeper staff prefer not to have the whole world watching them as they go about their work.

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