Answers to Questions About Our Panda Mother and Cub
Many people wrote to us with questions about Mei Xiang and her cub, born on July 9, 2005. We appreciate your interest in our giant pandas and this fascinating species. Here are answers to some of your questions. We will continue to answer questions.
When will the cub leave the Zoo?
In 2007, we were very happy to announce that Tai Shan will remain at the Zoo an additional two years past his second birthday, which was July 9, 2007. Some time after that, he will be sent to China, as per the Zoo's agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. On February 4, 2010, Tai Shan traveled to his new home at Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an, Sichuan, China. more
What happened to the cub's tail? It was so long.
The tail of a newborn panda is long relative to its body length. As the baby grows, the tail becomes proportionately smaller. The rest of the body grows at a faster rate than the tail. Think about a human baby, whose head is relatively large compared to the rest of the body. As the baby grows, other parts of the body grow more than the head does, so the proportion changes and head size relative to body size is "normal."
How did Mei manage to go without eating for a couple of weeks?
Panda experts have observed panda mothers in the wild go as long as a month without eating or drinking. Like other bears, pandas seem to go through a metabolic shift during the summer months, when their food intake may decrease by 75 percent from their consumption in cooler months. This coincides with when pandas den and produce cubs, like other bear species. One difference to note is that other bears fast for several months during hibernation.
How did Mei's den compare to panda dens in the wild?
In China's Wolong Reserve, pandas make their dens in large hollow conifer trees, with a diameter of about three feet. But elsewhere, where trees are absent due to logging, pandas use rock caves as dens, with a little bedding of twigs, for the cub's first 100 days. Then they move to areas of dense bamboo. Scientists have measured the floor space of several tree dens used in the past: 39 by 43 inches, 35 by 41 inches, and 35 by 37 inches; one cave den measured 33 by 39 inches.
Are lights on in the den at night?
No, we use infrared cameras so FONZ volunteer watchers and the public can see the pandas at night. Lights are on during the day.
What is the temperature in the den?
The temperature is kept at 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is the floor of the den like?
It has a slightly textured surface. We do not provide mats or carpet because Mei Xiang will chew them up. If swallowed, small pieces would endanger the health of Mei and the cub. In the wild, pandas give birth in caves, rock crevices, under ledges, and in tree holes. A cub must be an accomplished walker before it can negotiate around these surfaces.
How many nipples does Mei have?
Four—a pair near the underarms and a pair lower on the body, closer to the waist.
Will Tian Tian be introduced to Tai Shan?
Male pandas are not involved in the care of their cubs. They may never encounter each other in the wild. We do not plan to reintroduce Tian to Mei until the cub is weaned at 18 months to two years of age. There are no plans right now to introduce the cub to his father, although it may happen after the cub is weaned.
Dido the camera flashes hurt his eyes?
The camera flashes do not bother him, and we have no evidence that they cause any eye problems, with either human or panda superstars.
Is the cub male or female?
On August 2, 2005, we were able to examine the cub for the first time and learned that it's a boy. He weighed 1.82 pounds and had a total body length of 12 inches.
How fast did the cub grow?
At the cub's first exam on August 2, he weighed 1.82 pounds and had a total body length of 12 inches. At his second exam on August 8, he weighed 2.6 pounds. His total body length (from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail) was 14 1/4 inches. At his third exam on August 18, he weighed 4.2 pounds and measured 17 inches from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. See how he grew.
What is the cub's name?
The cub was named Tai Shan ("peaceful mountain") when he was 100 days old, on October 17, 2005. His name is pronounced "tie SHON". Thanks to everyone who voted.
How can I help pandas?
Support the Zoo's giant panda conservation efforts at the Zoo and in China by giving to the Giant Panda Conservation Fund. Donate now.
How do I see more photos of the cub?
Many pictures can be seen in the cub photo gallery, as well as in the cub updates. You can get exclusive cub wallpaper and a screen saver for your computer by supporting the Giant Panda Conservation Fund.