Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



The Cub's 50th–52nd Weeks

July 6: Three Days Until the Big Day

Tai ShanTai Shan now weighs 55 pounds. Earlier this week, he came up to the mesh to interact with a keeper and solicited play. At one point he sat up with his paws on the mesh, as if ready for his first training session. We are thrilled at the beginning of a new focus...this time on us!

Now is the time of year that pandas turn into large black-and-white slugs, spending their days in slumber, in cool and shady places.

Daily bamboo consumption for the adults has dropped off to about ten kilograms, at best. Icy treats and dunks in the pool are relished. This is the theme of the special treats that are being prepared for Tai's big birthday on Sunday, and we all wonder if he will even notice them.

June 28: A Late Night Out

Tai Shan in a treeHis Majesty, Lord of the Trees, and Slayer of Staff Personal Time, otherwise referred to as Tai Shan, did not descend from his perch until 11 p.m. Monday night. Thunder and lightning, and heavy rain at the rate of an inch per hour did not rouse him from his slumber, in the Japanese larch tree. Once Tai came down, he ambled his way up to the crest of the hill to linger in the dark. The weary keeper had to carry him under protest all the way to the patio. Mei Xiang nonchalantly greeted him at the door. Tai wanted to extend his personal playtime in the doorway, while Mei Xiang wanted to initiate a game of where are the biscuits?! The keeper had to pretend to depart in order for them to shift inside. Mei Xiang finally settled on the rockwork, with Tai beside her. Tai snuggled up and rested his head on her flank to begin a very cozy slumber.

June 21: A Weighing Party

Tai Shan now weighs 54 pounds. Over the weekend we had a little weighing party with leaf-eater biscuit hors d'oeuvres. We first shifted Tian Tian into the scale area. As Tian ambled through Mei's yard, he stopped to sniff her scent mark on the corner of the wall by the doorway. Once he finished this olfactory investigation, he paused to scent mark the corner of the scale as he stepped on to get weighed. Tian Tian weighs 277 pounds.

Pandas rub the scent glands under their tail in a swiping motion against objects in their environment at various heights. They can be quite acrobatic, even performing this activity while maintaining a handstand. The height of the scent mark may indicate status to the neighbors. Both our pandas usually scent mark in a standing position with a leg cock thrown in on occasion. Tian returned promptly to his side for another biscuit and remained by the mesh, ever hopeful that the entire portion was just for his enjoyment.  

Next we shifted Mei Xiang and Tai Shan in to get weighed. Mei Xiang weighed in at 239 pounds and completely ignored Tian's message on the scale. Tai stopped to sniff it intently but otherwise did not react. We held all the pandas in this patio area, just a few feet across from each other, for several minutes to see if the pandas would notice each other. Nothing happened. Pandas are very near sighted but their biscuit vision is perfect.

June 19: The Prettiest Panda Paws

Tai Shan climbingTai Shan has a new climbing feat. When he is on the patio to get weighed, he will climb right up onto the mesh. Usually he will perch right above Mei's head so that he can dangle a foot in her face. Sometimes he will let go with his hind legs and stand on Mei's head while still hanging on to the mesh with his fore paws, creating a panda totem pole.

When he scurries up the mesh we can get a good look at the bottoms of his feet. Tai has the prettiest panda paws we have ever seen! The pads are very soft and smooth. They are the most delicate shade of charcoal gray, with a lingering blush of pink. Mei's paws in striking contrast have a well-walked-upon appearance, blackened and creased, with a couple of small calluses on one fore paw.

← next month previous weeks →