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The Cub's 19th Week

November 18: Bamboo for Mei and Tai

This morning, Tai Shan was awake and active for more than an hour! We gave him his own little bunch of bamboo, and he spent a lot of time manipulating and mouthing the stems and leaves. We are watching the beginnings of behaviors that he will perfect over the next few months, as he begins to consume bamboo. When Mei Xiang came inside, she snacked on his fresh pile before taking him back to the den for a brief grooming session. This was an opportunity for Tai to play and squirm in her grasp. When Mei returned to exhibit 2, he followed. They both ended up in a second pile of bamboo, with Mei polishing off the leaves in perfect panda fashion, while Tai had his wrong end up most of the time. He lost interest in bamboo wrestling and began to explore and climb. When he headed up the rocks, Mei decided it was time to return him to the den for a nap.

November 17: Floor Plan Available

Mei and Tai, as seen on the panda camSome people have written to us asking if a floor plan of the dens and indoor exhibits is available, so that they can picture where Mei and Tai are now relative to where they had been, in the birthing den and the adjacent exhibit. We have posted the floor plan here.

November 16: Tai Gets up on Ledge

Tai Shan was able to pull himself up off of the floor this morning onto a ledge that was about 24 inches high. Getting up was hard work but getting down took even more effort. He half crawled off the edge and took a graceful, forward tumble, landing on his feet on the floor.

We introduced a hard rubber toy this morning. Mei Xiang cautiously approached it and then picked it up and began to chew on it. This is the type of toy that we expected her to ignore. To prove us wrong, she noticed it immediately! She was able to chew off some small pieces, so we removed it from the enclosures. It is very challenging to select panda-proof toys for big pandas as well as the little ones.

November 15: Mei's Milk Samples

Mei Xiang continues to eagerly participate in training sessions. We try to get milk samples for analysis twice a week. Very little chemical analysis has been done on the milk from lactating pandas, with cubs at different stages of development. Last week Mei was vaccinated for distemper and had her blood drawn. We analyze blood samples regularly for routine chemistry values in order to establish a baseline for pandas. Very few samples are collected from pandas as well as other exotic species without the effects of anesthesia. One of our research projects involves looking at the titre levels for distemper. Titre is a measurement of the level of immune response by the body to vaccination. This measurement helps us to understand the effectiveness of vaccines, as well as the best delivery schedule, in order to maximize protection for the animal.

Tai Shan has been learning to walk over the bar obstacle in den 2. Every day we are seeing more attempts to sit up and manipulate bamboo. This morning, he followed Mei into the area we call the patio. This is the outdoor area next to the building where Mei and Tian are weighed. He walked underneath her body and between her legs so we had to really look out for him.

November 14: When Mei's Away, the Cub Will Play

How the world has changed for Tai Shan! Over the weekend his mother moved him to den 2, which is now their home. Each morning, after Mei Xiang goes outside to eat, it is playtime for Tai. He comes out of the den as soon as she leaves, ready for a day of exploration. He is now responding to the sounds of doors and the voices of the staff. He explores exhibit 2 and settles in for his all-important naps by the doorway to exhibit 3. This seems to be his new favorite place. Tai is now climbing in and out of the dry pool. Another favorite activity is to roll around on his back in the hay and then chew on his feet. Tai is also trying to sit up against the rocks, which he can accomplish for a few seconds before tumbling over. Mei still leaves him in den 2, placing him there before she departs for the great outdoors, and when she returns he is taken back to the den, for his usual washing and nursing session.

November 13: Tai Tries to Climb

Many of us recently observed Tai trying to climb up on the den platform on which Mei frequently rests. He was not quite up to the task but may be able to climb pretty well by the time he is fve months old.

November 12: Tai Shan Is 18 Weeks Old Today

While our cub may be the most famous Tai Shan in this country, he shares his name with one of China's most sacred mountains. One of the cub's fans recently wrote to us to let us know about this UNESCO World Heritage site that has been an object of Taoist devotion and an inspiration for artists and scholars for thousands of years. Home to temples, tombs, and other artifacts, this mountain is said to symbolize the Chinese spirit and, because of the significance associated with its location in eastern China, birth as well. Today it attracts millions of visitors each year.

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