#PandaStory: Xiao Qi Ji Belly Slides in the Snow

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

One of the greatest joys in working with giant panda cubs is getting to see their personalities develop. At 17 months old, Xiao Qi Ji is a very smart boy with lots of determination. He’s pretty independent and often does his own thing, but he also likes to spend time with his mother, Mei Xiang. Sometimes, they will cuddle up together at night on a bed of hay, which we provide during the winter months.

Our cub is very playful and spends a lot of time climbing trees and wrestling with his enrichment toys. When we let the pandas out in the morning, Xiao Qi Ji will race Mei Xiang to her puzzle feeders, which are filled with nutrient-rich biscuits. He knocks them about and tries to get to the treats before his mom does.

Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji's footprint in the snow.
Jan. 17, 2022 | Giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji's pawprint in the snow.
Giant panda mother Mei Xiang's footprint in the snow.
Jan. 17, 2022 | Giant panda mother Mei Xiang's pawprint in the snow.
Giant panda father Tian Tian's paw prints in the snow.
Jan. 17, 2022 | Giant panda father Tian Tian's pawprints in the snow.

Recently, Xiao Qi Ji has been eating a lot more bamboo, especially the culm (stalk). While Mei Xiang sits and eats her breakfast, he often plops down beside her and shares her piece of bamboo. Giant panda cubs will nurse for as long as mom allows; lately, Xiao Qi Ji has been nursing about once a day.

At his most recent weigh-in, Xiao Qi Ji tipped the scales at 98.5 pounds (44.8 kilograms)—about 10 pounds more than last month. Adult male giant pandas in human care typically top out around 300 pounds, so he’s still got some growing to do. That said, he’s now at an age and size where keepers have stopped going into the enclosure with him. Since we have spent the last year training Xiao Qi Ji to shift in and out of the enclosures on cue, the way we care for him has not changed all that much. He is a great listener and comes right when we call him most days.

There’s something magical about watching giant pandas play in the snow. On Jan. 3, Washington D.C. experienced its first snow storm of 2022. Although Xiao Qi Ji was unsure of what to think of the snow last year, there was no denying his excitement about it this time around. He had a lot of fun rolling around, wrestling with Mei Xiang and even belly-sliding in the snow!

Giant panda Tian Tian eats a piece of sugar cane in the snow.
Jan. 13, 2022 | Giant panda Tian Tian eats a piece of sugar cane in the snow. 

Xiao Qi Ji’s father, Tian Tian, is also a fan of wintry weather. He seems to enjoy the cold and often naps outside, seemingly unbothered by the chilly air. When the clouds parted and the sun appeared, keepers gave each member of our panda family one of their favorite treats: sugar cane. It was the perfect treat to top off a fun and frosty day.

If you’re planning to visit Xiao Qi Ji in the coming weeks, or even if you’re just watching him on the Giant Panda Cam, here’s a tip for visiting: he tends to be most active early in the morning when the Zoo opens and in early afternoon. We hope to see you at the Zoo!

This story appears in the Jan. 28 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin; read previous cub updates here. Want to see the pandas in person? Plan your visit!