The exhibits team built the hammocks from sturdy firehose and installed them. There has been a hammock in Bei Bei’s enclosure for several years, but it was starting to show some wear-and-tear as it’s been a favorite resting spot for him and Bao Bao when she lived there. Bei Bei is 215 pounds now and still growing, so our exhibits team made the hammock large enough for an adult male. That also means that if Mei Xiang or Tian Tian spend time in that enclosure, the hammock will be big enough to accommodate them.
The hammock was installed in Bei Bei’s enclosure in the morning while he was eating his bamboo breakfast in his yard. It only took about an hour, so by the time Bei Bei was ready to venture back inside the new hammock was mounted on the wall in the same place his old one had been. He was a little nervous about the new furniture at first, but within a few hours he was sleeping and eating in it. Now, he uses it every day.
Tian Tian got his own hammock several weeks ago. He has some arthritis and the panda team wanted him to have the option of resting on a soft spot. He has been less enthusiastic about the new addition than Bei Bei was about his hammock, but this is the first hammock Tian Tian has ever had, so it may just take him some time to get used to it. He only chooses to sleep and eat in it occasionally. The hammock is the same height as the platform he likes to sleep on in his den. The lower height will make it easier for Tian Tian to get in and out of it as he ages. The older he gets the less likely he is to spend time climbing. Young pandas love to climb and they often sleep in trees, which is why Bei Bei’s hammock is higher.
Mei Xiang may get her own hammock in the future, but until we know for sure if she is pregnant or experiencing a pseudopregnancy we are not going to make any changes to her enclosure. She is very sensitive to noise and change right now, and we do not want to disturb her. Luckily, she has many different high and low resting spots to choose from in her enclosures.
We’ll likely know sometime in July if Mei Xiang will have a cub or not. The only definitive way to tell if a giant panda is pregnant before she gives birth is to detect a developing fetus on an ultrasound. Her behavior and hormone levels will mimic a pregnancy even if she is not pregnant. Veterinarians are conducting ultrasounds on Mei Xiang twice a week, as long as she chooses to participate, but they have not seen anything.