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#PandaStory: A Splashing Good Time

  • Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji stands on the wooden play structure, looking at the viewer.
    Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji turned 13 months old Sept. 21, 2021.
  • Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji holds onto the wooden play structure, upside-down
    Xiao Qi Ji is becoming more independent.
  • Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji holds onto the wooden play structure, upside-down
    Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji's favorite pastimes include climbing and playing in water.
  • Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji holds onto the wooden play structure, sitting up and looking to the left
    Xiao Qi Ji sits atop the climbing structure in his outdoor habitat.

Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji may have found a new favorite pastime. While keepers were hosing down the outdoor patio Sept. 16, our curious cub came over to supervise — and jumped right in the spray! Just like his father, Tian Tian, and mother, Mei Xiang, Xiao Qi Ji seems to enjoy playing in water, though each bear has his or her own unique style.

In my mind, the way Xiao Qi Ji interacts with the hose spray is similar to the way his older brother, Bei Bei, used to play. However, licking the spray — as he did Sept. 16 — is a trait that is unique to Xiao Qi Ji!

Giant panda mother Mei Xiang (left) and her son Xiao Qi Ji (right) sit next to each other in the grass.

Our 13-month-old cub’s confidence has grown steadily, as has his independence. Xiao Qi Ji has been spending less time with Mei Xiang recently, and he does not seek out comfort from her as frequently as he once did.

Although Xiao Qi Ji is still nursing, he does so sparingly. By the time giant panda cubs are a year old, bamboo and other solid foods make up the majority of their diet. However, cubs may nurse for comfort up to 18 months of age. At most, we see him nurse once a day; sometimes, we do not see him nurse at all, though it is possible he could be nursing overnight.

Another sign our little cub is growing up: Xiao Qi Ji has been losing his deciduous (baby) teeth. Last week, keeper Mariel Lally spotted a small tooth on the ground while she was cleaning the pandas’ indoor habitat. Judging from the crumbs clinging to the tooth, it appears it wiggled free while he was eating his morning leafeater biscuits!

This story appears in the Sept. 24 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin; read previous cub updates here. Tune in to the Giant Panda Cam. Planning a visit to the Zoo? Reserve your free entry pass or paid parking pass here.