#PandaStory: A Friendly Game of Tug-of-War

This update was written by giant panda keeper Nicole MacCorkle.

One of the greatest joys of having a giant panda cub is being able to observe how he interacts with his mother, Mei Xiang. Over the past two decades, she has been a wonderful mother to cubs Tai Shan, Bao Bao, Bei Bei and now Xiao Qi Ji. Mei Xiang is equally as serious about motherhood as she is about food; regular #PandaStory update readers may remember that each of our adults receive between 70 and 100 pounds of bamboo a day to eat, depending on the time of year.

Giant panda cub carries a bamboo shoot across the rockwork of his indoor exhibit.
Xiao Qi Ji carries a bamboo shoot in his mouth. 

In the last two weeks, we have entered bamboo shoot season. Shoots are popping up all over the Zoo! Although Xiao Qi Ji still relies mostly on Mei Xiang’s milk for his nutritional needs, we gathered a few shoots for him to try. He seemed a little unsure about them in contrast to his parents, who immediately devoured them!

No matter how Xiao Qi Ji feels about the taste of bamboo, he is certainly eager to play with it. This week, while his mother sat on the rockwork and ate, Xiao Qi Ji latched onto a stalk that she held in her paws. Mei Xiang indulged her son in a friendly game of tug-of-war for a few moments before gently pushing him away so she could finish eating. 

Now that the weather is warming up, keepers are making Xiao Qi Ji-sized fruitsicles for our cub to enjoy. The recipe is very simple: just make a mixture that is half apple juice and half water, then freeze. As assistant curator Laurie Thompson shared in her April 2 update, Xiao Qi Ji is a big fan of apples, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy these special fruitsicles!

Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji sits atop a scale with a kong toy in his mouth.
Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji received a new rubber kong toy this week! He liked it so much, he brought it on the scale for his weekly weigh-in. As of April 13, Xiao Qi Ji weighed 38 pounds (17.28 kilograms).

Meantime, on the other side of the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, Tian Tian is still exhibiting some rut behaviors, such as patrolling and scent marking, on some days. Lately, he has been sitting in his indoor pool, playing in the hose water with keepers, and foraging for bamboo shoots along the fence in his outdoor habitat.

This story appears in the April 16  issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin; read previous cub updates here. Watch Xiao Qi Ji on the Giant Panda Cam. Please note that the Zoo is temporarily closed as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.