#PandaStory: Big Milestones Ahead

This update was written by giant panda keeper Marty Dearie.

In the coming days, our giant panda cub will celebrate two big milestones. Tomorrow, Nov. 21, marks three months to the day that he was born. Two days later, Nov. 23, he will receive his name—thanks to your votes. Everyone on the panda team is so excited to find out what his name will be on Monday! (If you haven’t cast your vote yet, you can do so here. Voting ends tonight at 11:59 p.m.)

On Wednesday, Zoo veterinarians conducted the cub’s third checkup. He was wide awake and relatively quiet throughout the exam. Once again, they listened to his heart and lungs, checked his eyes and mouth, and tested the range of motion in his limbs. Overall, our animal care team is happy with the progress the cub is making. The cub also received his second canine distemper vaccine and was very tough—he didn’t move or vocalize at all at the prick of the needle.

This week, our cub tipped the scales at 10.4 pounds (4.72 kilograms). From the tip of his nose to the base of his tail, he measured 22 inches long (56 centimeters). His abdominal girth measured 18.1 inches (46 centimeters).

As my fellow keeper Nicole mentioned in her update last week, our cub has been practicing his crawling skills. Once he starts walking, it won’t be long before he tries to climb up on the rockwork in his habitat. The question will be whether he is tall enough to reach some of the plateaus. As they begin to explore, panda cubs fall a lot. Luckily, they are physically robust and have thick, wooly and dense fur—the perfect cushion for any tumbles he may take.

We are looking forward to seeing how our cub’s personality develops. At this age, it is hard to tell if he will be more like Tian Tian, his father, or Mei Xiang, his mother. Since giant panda cubs’ appearance changes as they age, it is hard to determine whether his eye patches, back saddle (the band of black fur across his back) or knee socks (the black markings on his legs) resemble that of his dad or mom just yet. There is some feeling among the team that this cub is similar in appearance to his older sister Bao Bao when she was this age. A few team members who have worked with all four cubs say his personality reminds them of his oldest brother, Tai Shan. Time will tell!

This story appears in the Nov. 20 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin. Watch Mei Xiang and her cub on the Giant Panda Cam, and read previous cub updates here. Please note that starting Monday, Nov. 23, the Zoo will temporarily close as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.