#PandaStory: Xiao Qi Ji Is On The Move

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

Our giant panda cub is on the move! At 3.5 months old, Xiao Qi Ji’s movements are a mixture of crawling and walking. He has been practicing his coordination, though, and he is working on getting his back legs positioned under him and gaining traction on the floor of the indoor habitat he shares with his mother, Mei Xiang. Day by day, his walking skills improve. A few times when mom took him on “field trips” to the larger enclosure and placed him on the floor, we saw him move back toward the den all on his own.

Xiao Qi JI is becoming more curious about the world around him and aware of his surroundings. This week, he even mouthed some of Mei Xiang’s bamboo. At this age, he still relies on mom’s milk for all of his nutritional needs. Around 1 year old, bamboo and other solid foods will make up the majority of his diet. However, Xiao Qi Ji may nurse for comfort up to 18 months of age.

On Dec. 9, Xiao Qi Ji had his fourth veterinary exam, where he received his third and final round of canine distemper vaccine (until it’s time for a booster). He squirmed throughout the exam, so we were unable to obtain our usual length and girth measurements. He did stay on the scale just long enough for us to record his weight, which is now 13.4 pounds (6.1 kilograms). Our chief veterinarian, Dr. Don Neiffer, checked the cub’s eyes and mouth, listened to his heart and lungs, and felt his muscles. Overall, our wiggly cub is very healthy!

It won’t be long before Xiao Qi Ji explores the outdoor habitat with Mei Xiang. Before he does so, however, he must receive his rabies vaccine and be able to fully walk and climb on his own. Those milestones are still a few weeks away. For now, we are watching our determined little cub continue to grow and learn how to be a giant panda.

You may have heard that giant pandas will continue to live at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo through early December 2023. We are so happy to have this new agreement in place with our Chinese colleagues and look forward to continuing our contributions to giant panda conservation and watching Xiao Qi Ji grow.  

This story appears in the Dec. 11 issue of the Giant Panda Bulletin. Check out the Giant Panda Cam and read previous cub updates here. Please note that the Zoo is temporarily closed as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.