Mei Xiang and Tian Tian have been having some adventures around the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat! Keepers have been utilizing the extra space in the giant panda habitats to switch outdoor yards and indoor enclosures on a regular basis. This allows Mei and Tian a change of scenery by spending the day in a different area, but more importantly, it creates an extremely important enrichment opportunity, mirroring what wild giant pandas are doing this time of year.
From November through May, males are in rut and explore every inch of their territories, searching for a fertile female. During rut, males can become quite restless because of their endless searching and surging hormones. Tian Tian is no different and he has days when he can’t seem to settle, despite multiple feedings and enrichment opportunities. Although they are mostly solitary animals, giant pandas do communicate with other pandas through scent. Scent marks convey a lot of valuable information to and from panda neighbors. It communicates the sex, age and reproductive status of the panda who left it.
As Mei Xiang and Tian Tian explore different yards, they spend much of their time smelling each other’s scent marks and leaving some of their own. Indoors, they have been exploring Bei Bei’s former enclosure, and Tian has even decided to nap in the elevated hammock.
We were looking forward to the first measurable snowfall of the season and it finally arrived Jan. 7! Although Washington, D.C., got just under an inch of snow, it brought out the playful sides of both Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. The morning after the snowfall, they rolled down hills, climbed trees and dangled upside down out of the tree branches — just like they did in their younger years!