This update was written by Keeper Nicole MacCorkle.
Bao Bao has been introduced to the training cage! This is an important developmental step because this is where the animal care team conduct husbandry behaviors such as measuring blood pressure, drawing blood, taking radiographs, and even routine vaccinations. In addition to perfecting behaviors like shifting on and off exhibit, targeting training, and getting onto the scale to be weighed, Bao Bao will soon learn more intricate behaviors which her parents have already mastered. As with any training, for any of our bears, we are working at Bao Bao's pace. Her comfort level is our first priority. Right now, keepers reward her with some of her favorite treats (like dilute honey and apple juice!) when she enters the training chute. Overall, everyone is happy with her progress.
The panda house is starting to settle in for autumn! An earlier sunset also means lights out for the pandas. Within a few weeks the panda house will close (as will all the other Zoo buildings) at 4:30 p.m. Following the natural light cycle and making the building quiet every day by the time the sun sets will help ensure Mei Xiang has a normal estrus cycle in 2015. Although we're making these changes in preparation for the next breeding season, it's still quite far off. Bao Bao will likely nurse and live with Mei Xiang for several more months. Starting Oct. 1, the panda cams will not be operated by our dedicated volunteers after 4 p.m. The cams will be set to a wide angle every afternoon (so the pandas will still be visible if they choose to move around), and remain that way until behavior watchers return the next morning at 7 a.m. The infared cameras and cameras capable of recording in low lighting in the panda house do not focus well in the dark unless there is someone operating them. As a result, the images may not be as crisp as they are during the day.