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The Cub's 26th and 27th Weeks

January 20: Catching a Scent

Tian Tian was very interested in sniffing a trash can lid that Tai Shan had recently played with. He tried to reach it under the mesh in Tai and Mei's yard, so the keepers gave it to him. He spent about four minutes sniffing it intently, occasionally touching his tongue to the surface. Then the call of food interrupted his concentration and he left in search of his pile of bamboo down in the yard. While they haven't been in the same space, Tai and Tian have had opportunities to see each other. So far neither one has reacted to the other's presence.

January 17: Inch by Inch, Tai Keeps Growing

While Tai Shan was sleeping a few days ago, we moved him to a tub to measure him. He is now 37 inches long, just slightly longer than he was a month ago. The main difference is due to a change in the length of his head. His abdomen shows the most significant change of all: 5.46 inches! His most recent weight, from January 8, was 28 pounds. He has quite a bit more growing to do before he's as big as his 275-pound father, Tian Tian.

January 12: What a Clever Panda

Those of you watching the web cam yesterday may have noticed that Tai's indoor exhibit looked a little different. To provide Tai with enrichment, we experimented with blocking off one of the alcoves in the rockwork in exhibit 2. What a fun obstacle this presented! Tai climbed all over and around the toys piled into the crevice. He tried to wedge himself head or tail first between the objects. What determination! When he decided that it just was not going to work out to his satisfaction, he walked all the way over and through the door, to the alcove at the far side of exhibit 3, and went to sleep there. What a clever panda—when plan A failed, he pursued plan B.

January 9: Tai Is Six Months Old

Tai in a tub on January 7Six months ago today, Tai Shan entered the world a tiny, helpless cub. He has grown and changed so much—and gained admirers around the world—since July 9. Most recently, we have noticed that his nose is turning black. Pink or black, his face is still the cutest panda face ever! Many mammals are born with less pigment, particularly on the face. In some species, this serves as a social signal, eliciting special care by the mother and other group members. However, we do not think this function applies in pandas.

We are still relocating Tai Shan during the viewing hours (8:30-9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-1 p.m.). There may be relocations during other times, but we try to minimize these. Fortunately, he is usually pretty sleepy and is easier to move. If he is really tired, he stays partially asleep when we move him, and he settles right back down into his nap in a new location. During the rest of the day and night, Tai has uninterrupted naps. Over the weekend, we experimented with putting the tub outdoors. The weather has been so mild that we wanted to let him nap outside near Mei Xiang. Tai Shan was recently given a new set of tubs in several sizes. We really appreciate this special gift from the manufacturer. Cub-in-a-tub time has a new twist.

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