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The Cub's 46th–49th Weeks

June 7: Tai Falls and Recovers

Yesterday evening while playing in enclosure three with Mei Xiang, Tai—now weighing 53 pounds—experienced the full force of gravity when Mei accidentally knocked him off of the top of the rocks. Tai cried out loudly as he hit the floor and continued to vocalize as Mei rushed to his side. She was very attentive to him, trying to pick him up and drag him from the scene of the accident. After failing to pick up or move his considerable bulk, she moved into enclosure 2, with Tai following closely behind. Over the next half hour she attempted to console him by lying down next to him in a nursing position as well as gently pawing him. Tai complained for quite a while before settling down next to her. Before long, they were both back to normal, with Mei trying to relax and Tai Shan practicing his climbing skills on her back.

June 1: Pool Time

Memorial Day marked the beginning of pool season for Tai Shan. We filled the yard pool with water, 12 to 18 inches deep, for the first time. Tai even had some panda pool toys, ice cubes, and a soccer ball.

Tai went right in without hesitation and sat in the water, swishing his feet and batting the toys around. Once he was done, he dashed out, releasing his excitement in a flash of water droplets before settling into his normal leafy perch.

Tai has also spent time resting in the water-chilled grotto. He looks like quite the miniature adult, stretched out, belly down, under the massive rock shelter.

May 26: Mmm, Bamboo

Tai Shan's weight has climbed up to 51 pounds. Yesterday and this morning, he has been seen getting down to business on pieces of bamboo shoots. The pieces were one to two feet long, with a circumference about the size of a quarter. Tai has figured out that if he wants to keep his bamboo, he needs to drag it away and out of Mei's sight.

May 24: Mei's Motherhood Role Moves Into New Phase

The evening fruitcicle is still working its charm on Tai Shan. We are almost afraid to jinx our luck by mentioning it. He has been coming in on time, under his own power, with this moving enticement. He might get in a lick or two before Mei takes it over.

Tai Shan and Mei Xiang now lead fairly separate lives, except for a few play bouts and nursing sessions each day. Mei Xiang has entered a different phase now in her role as Tai's mother. Her job now is to move Tai along in the difficult transition from high-fat milk to the high-fiber, low-nutrient bamboo.  Tai Shan continues to launch himself onto Mei's back to chew and bite at her ears and neck, as part of his request to play. He plays rough. Tai is often taken for a short ride before he gets a good slap down from Mei. This is all appropriate behavior for this stage of his development. Mei is yet again showing her competence in caring for this very rambunctious and growing bear.

We have witnessed an amazing ten-month metamorphosis from a helpless newborn to a strong, confident, and independent being. By the time the new panda yards on Asia Trail open this September, Tai will be ready to spend even more time alone exploring a new home range.

May 17: Tai Comes in on Time

Tai Shan now weighs 50 pounds. He has been coming in on time lately. He certainly gives us the eyes-wide-open look when we enter the yard to escort him indoors in the evening. One evening he followed the moving fruitcicle nicely and came all the way indoors under his own power.

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