Giant Panda Breeding Season is Almost Here

Bei Bei has adjusted very well to his new habitats and life on his own. He identified a tree that he likes to sleep in, and he’s been exploring his water moat. The moat is mostly empty right now but when the weather is consistently warmer it will be filled with water. He seeks out his keepers for attention by vocalizing when they are nearby. He is learning how to get food out of the enrichment feeders filled with panda treats. He is not quite as skilled as Mei Xiang or Tian Tian at getting the treats yet, so keepers are giving him some less difficult options such as hanging feeders or pvc feeders with larger holes. He also has been playing with Jolly balls and Teaser balls, and keepers smear sweet potato on his enrichment items and logs.

Tian Tian is ready for breeding season. He is in full rut, which means that he frequently scent marks and can be very restless. Those are normal behaviors for a male panda readying himself for breeding. He sometimes watches Mei Xiang though the window between their yards and bleats at her. During the breeding season especially, he loves to play in water and will play in the hose water while keepers are cleaning. After he’s had his fill of playing in the water, he typically rolls down the hill and proceeds to get himself very dirty. We find that when he has a really strong rut day he is often more calm and restful the next day.

Mei Xiang is exhibiting pre-estrus behaviors such as water play, scent marking, scent anointing, and restlessness. She often responds to Tian Tian’s calls with a moan vocalization that indicates she is not interested in him just yet. As she gets closer to estrus and becomes interested in Tian Tian, she will start to chirp at him. We are about to make some modifications to Mei Xiang’s den. The changes will not heavily impact Mei Xiang. In fact, it will be a bigger change for her keepers. We will remove the platform from her den and extend the bars to the floor which allow keepers to safely enter the den to check on her and a future cub. The new section of bars are slightly wider closer to the floor and will be covered with removable plexiglass, enabling keepers to retrieve a cub for a health check or access Mei Xiang if necessary.

Panda cam viewers may have noticed some or all of the bears spending time inside during the day. We are replacing the panda cams in all of the yards with high-definition cams, like the ones inside Mei Xiang’s enclosures. While the cams are being replaced, there may be times when Tian Tian, Mei Xiang or Bei Bei are inside during the day. Meanwhile, we hope panda cam viewers are enjoying the much improved quality of the pictures on the outdoor cams that have already been replaced.