#PandaStory: Pool Playtime For Xiao Qi Ji

This update was written by assistant curator of giant pandas Laurie Thompson.

Our 16-month-old giant panda cub, Xiao Qi Ji, takes any opportunity he gets to play in water, whether it is a tub filled with bubble bath or a stream of spray from a hose. When he was smaller, we kept his pool quite shallow—just a few inches deep. Now, at 89 pounds (40.6 kilograms), he is large enough to “graduate” to a deeper pool.

On Dec. 17, Xiao Qi Ji took his first dip in deeper water. At only 12 inches high, the water level was high enough for him to try a “panda paddle” yet low enough that he could easily touch the bottom. He straddled the driftwood logs—a bit like a makeshift raft—and repeatedly tried to sink one of his favorite enrichment toys. At times, he sat on the ledge of the pool, rubbed water on his ears and playfully nipped at the fur on his belly, which had gathered in prominent peaks. He seemed to really enjoy playing in the pool and afterwards was so excited that he ran outside and climbed a couple of trees!

As you tune in to the Giant Panda Cam this week, see if you can spot some special holiday enrichment sprinkled throughout the habitats. We are happy to share that our volunteer behavior watchers are back at the Cam controls! Keeper elves on our giant panda team are preparing festive wreath-shaped fruitsicles, as well as colorful cardboard boxes and puzzle feeders for the pandas to play with and explore. Our red pandas, Asa and Chris-Anne, will also receive colorful boxes with some of their favorite treats hidden inside. On behalf of the giant panda team, we wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy New Year!   

An ad for panda merchandise featuring a T-shirt, hat, mug and tote. The text reads: "Just in time for the holidays, shop the best of Xiao Qi Ji collection, limited time only! shop now"
This story appears in the Dec. 21 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin; read previous cub updates here. Through Dec. 31, shop the “Best of Xiao Qi Ji” on NationalZooPanda.com! Proceeds from this curated collection of fan-favorite merchandise benefit animal care and conservation science at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.