As keeper Mariel Lally mentioned in our last #PandaStory update, giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji will soon learn a few husbandry behaviors that enable him to voluntarily participate in his own healthcare. One of the first behaviors animals learn is to “target.” We present them with a buoy on a stick, and they instinctively sniff to investigate the new, interesting object. Every time Xiao Qi Ji touches his nose to the buoy, we say “good job” and give him a treat—usually a piece of sweet potato, apple or pear. Training is completely voluntary, and at such a young age, he’s often too sleepy in the morning to participate. For now, we are familiarizing him with these objects and going at his pace.
On May 9, Xiao Qi Ji climbed up a tree and his mother, Mei Xiang, sat near the base. While he was in the canopy, he dropped some small branches and twigs onto his mother below! She seemed to relish this play behavior because she picked up the branches and scent-anointed with them.
Xiao Qi Ji is getting the hang of shifting between his indoor and outdoor enclosures. On May 10, he followed me outside all on his own and got a nice piece of cooked sweet potato as his reward.
Our growing cub continues to make good gains. On May 11, Xiao Qi Ji weighed in at 43.5 pounds (19.75 kilograms).
Recently, keepers gave Xiao Qi Ji a tub with a few inches of water inside. He climbed in, drank some water, then sat in it for a few moments before he rolled out. He seemed like he had fun playing in the tub; time will tell if he shares his father’s fondness for playing in pools and hoses when he is older.
Tian Tian is still in rut, but that will wind down over the next few weeks. Most of his attention these days is focused on bamboo shoots, which he has been enthusiastically eating!