#PandaStory: Weekend Field Trip

This update was written by Michael Brown-Palsgrove, curator of Asia Trail.

It is remarkable how quickly giant panda cubs grow and change in their first few weeks of life. When our cub was just a few days old, mother Mei Xiang kept him tucked under her armpit or between her forepaws to help keep him warm. In those early days, good glimpses of the cub via the Giant Panda Cam were quite rare.

Nowadays, he is much easier to spot. Although our 8-week-old cub does not nurse as frequently as he did when he was younger, we know from the weekly weigh-ins conducted by our keeper team that he is packing on the pounds. This—along with thick, wooly fur—enables our cub to regulate his own body temperature. He often sleeps on the floor of the den just beside Mei Xiang. From time to time, the pair will playfully nibble at one another.

We have observed Mei Xiang leave her cub in the den while she spends time in the large enclosure eating bamboo and drinking water. Last week, keepers also provided Mei Xiang with one of her favorite diet items—leaf eater biscuits—in a rubber tub. She decided to take her food "to go" and brought the tub into the den for a midnight snack.

As we mentioned in our last update, Mei Xiang brings her cub out of their den for brief “field trips” to the large enclosure. Typically, she carries him out for just a few moments. Over the next few weeks, we expect these field trips to increase in frequency and duration. Meantime, our cub continues to practice crawling. Exercising his muscles and improving his coordination will help him scoot around in the coming weeks. Around three months old, we expect he will take his first steps.

This story appears in the Oct. 19 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin e-newsletter. Read previous cub updates here. Planning a visit to the Zoo? Please note that Asia Trail—including giant panda viewing—is temporarily closed to visitors for the scheduled repaving of walkways.