Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's 17th Week

November 4: Tai Explores Exhibit, Plays With Mei

Yesterday morning after the cub relocation, Tai Shan spent a little more time exploring the floor of exhibit 3 (adjacent to the den). Mei Xiang returned from outside and went into exhibit 2. Just when she was about to settle down in her favorite spot at the top of the rock work, she spotted Tai. She whipped her head around, with both ears pointed forward like satellite dishes, and hustled back to him. She was not alarmed, just determined to correct his location immediately! She pulled and dragged him back through the den door.

We are beginning to see very nice play interactions between Mei and Tai. She rolls him around in her arms, biting his neck and ears, and gently mouthing him. Tai responds by biting back, swatting at her face, and kicking vigorously. One time Tai got ahold of her cheek and was pulling it, like it was rubber band. She dropped him to the floor, rolled him around a bit, and held him down with her big paw. At times Tai looks like he has a primate-like play face, with his mouth wide open as he squirms in her embrace.

November 3: Tian Scent Marks

Tian Tian has been quite restless lately. Last Sunday when we set our clocks back, he did not appreciate that the keepers were an hour late getting him outside for his first meal. When Tian becomes restless, he just cannot get comfortable and changes positions and power walks around the yard seeking comfort.

Interestingly, he also started to scent mark after he was weighed on Sunday. Scent marking involves pandas rubbing their anal glands against surfaces to leave a sticky secretion that smells very interesting to pandas, but is hardly noticeable to us. Tian scent marked the scale area, where Mei Xiang passes through daily, and also continued to scent mark around the outdoor yard. This is the time of year when testosterone levels begin to rise in male pandas. This hormone is responsible for the seasonal changes, associated with the male's rut, or breeding period. Males become restless, wander, and scent mark! They may also become aggressive. Sperm production is enhanced over the next few months, as marking behavior increases to indicate his availability.

November 2: Mei Sleeps, Tai Speeds Up

Mei Xiang is sleeping on the grotto in yard 2 almost every day. This is the area of the yard that is adjacent to the construction site. Currently the construction workers are working on the new bamboo shed and panda enclosures. Mei just sleeps through all the noise. When Mei returns to Tai Shan she makes up for lost time, washing him thoroughly and nursing him, before departing again. She handles his 15-pound body very differently now, often rolling or dropping him abruptly when there is fresh bamboo waiting.

Tai Shan can walk really fast now. He traverses the length of the exhibit enclosure, about 25 feet, in less than a minute. On one occasion he went in the den and turned around and almost came out again. Tai continues to mouth bamboo but still does not try to swallow it. He still prefers to spend his days on his back, asleep in the den.

November 1: Tai Continues to Return to Den

Many people have wondered why we relocate Tai Shan to the exhibit adjacent to his den every day, especially when he instinctively returns to his familiar den each time. We are so proud to share our little bear with his many adoring online fans, but we also want to share him with people who will come from around the world to visit him at the Zoo. Putting him in the exhibit weeks before his debut will help him get acclimated to his surroundings so visitors will be able to see this wonderful ambassador for endangered species, and not just have a glimpse of his rear end as he hurries into the den.

October 31: At Tenth Exam, Cub Weighs 15.5 Pounds

Keeper Cathy Morvick with the cub
The cub had his tenth exam today. What a handful Tai Shan is now! Last week he had an opinion about his distemper injection, today it was the thermometer. We will now drop this from the exam, unless he shows any signs of illness. He weighs 15.5 pounds and is 28.47 inches long. He gained 1.4 pounds and grew 1.37 inches since his exam on October 21. His canines are more prominent than his incisors now. His premolars are still not evident but his molars are all in. click toSee how he's grown.

October 30: Video Clips Now Online
Tai continues to sleep most of the time and improve his walking skills during his limited waking hours. If you tune into the panda cam while the cub is catching some zzz's and would like to see more activity, check out the video clips that were recently posted. Just scroll down the page and click on the appropriate link to watch a few moments from a past exam or an intimate view of mother and cub. More clips will be added soon.

October 29: Tai Shan Is 16 Weeks Old Today
At 16 weeks old, the cub weighs more than 14 pounds, about 50 times more than he weighed at birth. We have all enjoyed watching him grow and change so much, as have his fans around the world. click toSee how the cub has grown.

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