Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's 30th and 31st Weeks

February 17: Portrait of the Young Tree as a Bed, Trampoline, Scratching Post, Toy...

Tai in his river birch tree
Tai Shan has a new favorite sleeping place. It is a small river birch tree at the front of the yard. This tree grows in a funny, bent-over position, due to an encounter with Tian Tian last year. Young trees bounce as well as a trampoline, and pandas enjoy this feature tremendously. Tai now has the perfect tree, which provides a horizontal perch to rest on. It also provides several branches for him to reposition and scratch against. When Mei is in the mood, they can play the tumble-and-fall game, with a few somersaults added in. The poor trees take a beating in the process and usually need to be replaced eventually. Even the mature, old favorite willow tree in Tian's yard is showing the wear of time after five years of attention from Tian Tian and Mei Xiang. It will need to be trimmed any day now.

February 14: Snow Day!

Tai Shan in the snowAfter snow fell throughout the night, the yard became a brand new world on Sunday morning! Tai Shan experienced his first significant snow. After a brief taste of the powder, he plowed right out into his wonderland. Climbing a snow-covered limb took several tries before he figured out that if you slide up with your belly, while hanging on with all fours, you can make slow progress. Later, Mei Xiang and Tai had a good play session involving lots of rolling and sliding, as well as bouncing and falling off of the deadfall repeatedly. With their thick snow-frosted fur, pandas neaten up again after a good shake. Pandas both young and old really love the snow. The most sedate panda will lose it completely over a little snow. It really makes us wish for our own snow machine.

In response to some email about last Friday's update: The nicknames we mentioned are endearing but descriptive remarks about a sometimes determined and stubborn little bear cub! We say them in humor only and not because we have any negative feelings for him.

February 9: Tai Is Seven Months Old Today

Tai in a treeNow seven months old, Tai Shan weighs 33 pounds. His cuteness has taken on a longer and lankier profile. While his body slowly matures, his attitude has rapidly expanded. Among the panda staff, Tai has a new set of nicknames and descriptions, like "little toad," "little monster," "wild man," and "rotten child," just to name a few. When he is awake, if he is not chewing or climbing on Mei to get her to play, he is trying to "help" the keepers move bamboo. A new soccer ball will provide some distraction so that the keepers can finish the task.

We still cannot confirm that he is eating bamboo, although we all think that some is now going down. What a mess the enclosures are in the morning! When we come in, it looks as though there has been an extended play session involving water and hay.

February 6: Up a Small Tree

Today Tai Shan climbed up a small redbud near the fence by Tian's yard. He got very comfortable in the bare branches and stayed there for hours. In the wild, panda cubs climb trees to stay safe from would-be predators when their mothers are eating bamboo elsewhere.

Tai also climbed the big scale today and was weighed at 33 pounds. All those pounds are thanks to Mei's milk—we still have no evidence that he's eaten bamboo.

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