It's hard to believe, but Bao Bao is almost 18 months old! Eighteen months is a big milestone for giant panda cubs because they stop nursing and start living separately from their mothers. Bao Bao started the weaning process naturally a few months ago, and now she's eating significantly more bamboo and solid foods. She also eats separately from Mei Xiang and spends about 6 hours separated from her each day. They will spend increasingly more time apart until Bao Bao is living on her own. Bao Bao has been doing well during the time she spends apart from Mei. Our panda team expects that the process will be complete in early March.
Last month our panda team and veterinarians performed an ultrasound along with human cardiologist Dr. Rosenthal on Mei Xiang as part of a routine checkup. She is in great health. Mei usually participates in ultrasounds when the panda team is monitoring her for possible pregnancies, and the cardiac ultrasound was performed much the same way. She lay down in the training chute while a keeper gave her honey water, a favorite treat, and Dr. Rosenthal looked at her heart and abdomen. She also allowed Dr. Rosenthal to perform the ultrasound while she was standing. The panda keepers have been working with Mei Xiang and Tian Tian to perform procedures like ultrasounds, blood draws and routine exams without anesthesia for a very long time, and the pandas are always given the choice whether or not to participate. They almost always choose to participate. Dr. Rosenthal brought all of his own equipment—the same equipment used to perform cardiac ultrasounds on humans—for the exam. And since the ultrasound for Mei was successful, the team will follow the same protocol for an ultrasound with Tian Tian during his next routine checkup.