#PandaStory: A Chill Cub’s First Snow

This update was written by giant panda keeper Marty Dearie and assistant curator of giant pandas Laurie Thompson.

On Sunday, Jan. 31, giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji experienced yet another big milestone—his first encounter with snow! As the flakes were falling, we brought Xiao Qi Ji out of the indoor enclosure to a snow-covered patio behind-the-scenes.

Five-month-old giant panda Xiao Qi Ji sniffs a small snowman that stands just a few inches tall.
Jan. 31 | Five-month-old giant panda Xiao Qi Ji sniffs a cub-sized snowman before taking a frosty bite.

He seemed unsure about it at first and stood there for a moment to take it all in. Keeper Stacey Tabellario built him his own panda-cub-sized snowman. He sniffed it before taking a frosty bite. He explored the area for about five minutes before we took him back inside. Although his trip was a short one, he seemed to have a good time.

He was much more chill about it than his older brother Bei Bei. The first time we offered snow to Bei Bei, we brought it inside in a tub for him to explore. Instead, he barked at it and ran away! He sat on top of the mountain and stared at it for a few hours. As he got older, Bei Bei enjoyed tumbling and sliding in the snow—although perhaps not as much as his parents did this week!

(In case you missed the flurry, check out the video above to watch Mei Xiang sliding in the snow! You can also watch Tian Tian and some of our other animals having a ball in the wintry weather here.)

On Wednesday, we place Xiao Qi Ji on the scale for a quick weigh-in. He gained another pound since last week and measured 10.62 kilograms, or 23 pounds.

The trees in giant panda Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji's habitat received cuffs to help keep our cub close to the ground.

In the next few weeks, Xiao Qi Ji will have an opportunity to explore the outdoor habitat. Our team has been busy this week installing new tree guards in the yard he shares with his mother, Mei Xiang. These guards are designed to keep young cubs towards the bottom of the tree, where they can practice their climbing skills at a safe height. As Xiao Qi Ji grows and gains more confidence, he will be able to climb over the guards and higher up into the canopy.

This story appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin; read previous cub updates here. Please note that the Zoo is temporarily closed as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.