Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's 18th Week

November 11: New Clip of Mei and Tai

As Tai grows, Mei learns that he is harder to pick up every day. These days, she drags her 17-pound cub from the den to the exhibit and vice versa. Tune into the new clip from yesterday, showing Mei transporting her big cub across the exhibit as he makes her job easier by going limp. The link is below the web cam.

November 10: At 11th Exam, Cub Weighs 17.2 Pounds

Tai on November 10At his 11th exam today, Tai weighed 17.2 pounds, almost two pounds more than he weighed ten days ago. When holding him, we can almost feel the gain in his belly and rear end. He is 28.6 inches long, which is about the same length he was at his last exam. He also received a fourth canine distemper shot, which is the last of the series.

After the exam we did a relocation. Mei Xiang walked up onto the rocks in exhibit 2. It was great to see her observe him out of the den and then continue to wander for a few minutes. She then approached and walked past him into the den, before returning to his side. She was very relaxed and took her time, eventually dragging him back to the den. It was 12 minutes before they entered the den.

November 9: Tai Plays, Practices Eating Bamboo

Tai Shan is four months old today! He regularly engages in solitary play while resting in the den. He displays the flexibility of pandas by reaching to chew on his hind feet, while lying on his back. Too cute! We have seen him pick up and mouth pieces of hay and bamboo almost every day. Yesterday, while mouthing a piece of bamboo he was seen trying to sit up and hold it. It was an attempt at a behavior we see all the time with our adult pandas, where they sit back to consume their chosen piece of bamboo, their bellies serving as a huge bib for all the fallen, uneaten shards. Tai almost had the position and then collapsed into a squirmy ball.

November 8: More Excursions

Mei Xiang relocated Tai Shan yesterday afternoon for another excursion around the enclosures, which lasted 25 minutes. We opened a second den (den 2), in case she wanted to move there, but she moved him back to the birth den (den 3). Just for reference Tian's enclosures are called exhibit 1 and den 1. During the excursion, she dragged him up on the rocks, leaving him for brief periods. She would then drag him a short distance and leave again. When they were back on the floor, Mei would also let him follow her. Tai runs to catch up with her and we all cheer him on, as if he were the youngest recruit in the little league. It was very touching to hear Mei Xiang bleating to him. We have never heard this vocalization from Mei outside of the breeding season. It is a low, comforting sound just like the bleat of a sheep. It is a contact call for pandas, a way to check in and make sure that everything is OK. This is the first vocalization she has made directly to Tai Shan.

This morning Tai and Mei were again out in the enclosures when the keepers arrived. The mornings are now unpredictable around the panda building.

November 7: Mei and Tai Spend Time in Exhibit

During the relocation today, Tai was squirmy and vocal. Mei had finished her fruitsicle and had returned to the back of the yard. When she heard her cub squeal, she vocalized at the mesh. We opened the door, and Mei walked in and, because he has gotten so big, dragged him back to the den.

Instead of settling in, she dragged him back to the exhibit enclosures. She carried him over the lower part of the rock work, pausing to rest several times. It is not easy to carry Tai, even though he is cooperating by hanging limp in her grasp. We think he looks and feels like he has gained more than one pound this past week! After resting in enclosure 2, she then decided it was time to go back to the den. At one point Tai tumbled off of the rocks and then ran about ten feet to catch up to her. We all gasped at how well he could run. People watching on the web cam may have gasped also when they saw the cub tumble, thinking of him more as a baby than a panda baby. But we should all remember how sturdy baby bears are, and how safe the Zoo is compared to the perils of the wild.

Once back in the den, Tai nursed for seven minutes, before falling sound asleep. Mei rested near him for the next hour, before leaving to get some more bamboo outdoors. We are all so excited about the time they spent out in the exhibit enclosures—19 minutes! Mei was anxious, but did leave him to come to the door for pear and apple treats.

November 6: Tian Tian's Role

Some of Tai's fans have asked when the cub will meet his father, Tian Tian. Panda fathers are not involved with raising the young. The mother cares for the offspring until after it is weaned, at about age 2, at which time it becomes independent. Adult pandas are solitary animals. There are no plans right now to introduce our cub to his father.

November 5: Big Day Out

Upon arriving this morning, keepers discovered Tai Shan outside the den. Both Mei and Tai were out roaming the exhibit spaces independently. After awhile Mei joined Tai and they interacted for a time—pawing and mouthing one another, rolling, and wandering around the exhibit. Finally Mei maneuvered him back into the den. This is the farthest that Tai Shan has been from the den to date.

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