Giant panda Update Jan 31, 2014

This update was written by giant panda keeper Nicole MacCorkle.

Bao Bao continues to grow steadily, and is becoming more active and inquisitive with each passing day. Therefore, keepers are maximizing this time while she is little and playful to lay the groundwork for future positive reinforcement training. Our adult pandas routinely participate in voluntary blood draws, blood pressure checks, ultrasounds and, when needed, radiographs. They also receive their preventive vaccinations in the training cage, all without anesthesia. Obviously, Bao Bao is not yet ready for such "grown up" behaviors now, but we are laying a foundation to build upon as we work toward our training goals for her.

We still go in with her each day, and often have to relocate her in the mornings as we try to get the indoor enclosures cleaned, and so that visitors can see her when the building opens. She is acclimating to our presence and the sound of our voices, and seems to be increasingly interested in what we are doing around her. Now is the time to engage her, and to work on her responding to us and moving in our direction when we call her name, so that someday soon, she will be able to shift on and off exhibit like her parents do. Bao Bao has also sampled some dilute apple juice, and cooked sweet potato, which will later be used as training rewards.

At first our training goals will be simple, like shifting when called, and climbing onto the scale to be weighed (which she seems to have already mastered, at least with the small cub scale!) We are beginning to work on things like target training, which will lead into more advanced husbandry behaviors. If Bao Bao is anything like her parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and her big brother Tai Shan, and is eager to train, then the sky is the limit!