#PandaStory: Winter Comes Early For Xiao Qi Ji

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

From the time our giant panda cub, Xiao Qi Ji, was 6 months old, he has been a very good listener. Now, at 15 months old, he regularly responds to keepers. When it is time for us to put more food in his outdoor habitat, we call the bears’ names so they know it’s time to come inside. Often, Xiao Qi Ji climbs down a tree or runs from the front of the habitat to see what treats keepers might have in store for him.

As keeper Mariel Lally mentioned in her last update, Xiao Qi Ji takes mealtime very seriously. Although he receives his own diet every day, we still see him sneak some food that was meant for his mother, Mei Xiang, from time to time. He is quite a clever boy and will steal her apple or carrot, then run to the top of the rockwork or into the den to eat it!

Thanks to his healthy appetite, Xiao Qi Ji has been growing steadily. Recently, he weighed-in at 82.5 pounds—10.5 pounds more than last month. We help him keep physically active by offering him a variety of enrichment to investigate—like a tub filled with toys and non-toxic bubble bath.

“Winter” came a little early to the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat this year, care of our Department of Nutrition Science. Our commissary team provided us with a pallet of ice for all three pandas to play in. Like Mei Xiang and his father, Tian Tian, Xiao Qi Ji seems to be a big fan of the cold stuff. He had a blast conquering the ice “mountain” and even did some sledding!

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"

Just in time for the holidays, our “Best of Xiao Qi Ji” limited-edition merchandise is available now on NationalZooPanda.com. This curated collection of fan-favorite merchandise commemorates Xiao Qi Ji's naming, "panda power play" with the Washington Capitals, and first birthday festivities. We hope you will consider giving a gift from our collection to the giant panda fans on your list! Proceeds from your purchase benefit animal care and conservation science at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

While Tian Tian’s habitat receives some upgrades, he has taken up residence in the habitat that is adjacent to the red pandas. He seems to enjoy the change in scenery. On cold days, we often find him snoozing in the sunshine.   

Last, but not least, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the giant panda team would like to express our sincere thanks to everyone who follows our #PandaStory. Whether you have followed the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s giant pandas since Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived in 1972, or if you’ve just joined us since Xiao Qi Ji was born, we are grateful for the opportunity to share these sweet and memorable moments with you.

This story appears in the Nov. 29 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