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What's Bei Bei Been Up To?

  • bei bei climbing a tree
This giant panda update was written by biologist Laurie Thompson

Bei Bei's still growing like a weed! He was 37 pounds as of March 17 and growing daily. We have started very basic training with him. The first type of training is recall training. As he grows, it will be important for him to come inside from the outdoor enclosure on his own when keepers ask him--just like Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Bao Bao. During recall training, the keepers call his name from a short distance and reward him with food for coming to them. Sometimes we have two keepers doing training and we ask him to move back and forth between keepers.

The second type of training we're doing is target training. The target is a small kong toy on the end of a bamboo stick. We reward him with food when he touches the target with his nose. Once he masters this we will move onto other behaviors such as standing, presenting his paws, opening his mouth for dental checks, etc. Those will help with routine veterinary care.

When Bei Bei isn't training, he can usually be found outside. His climbing ability has improved, and he regularly climbs several trees as well as the climbing structures in his yard.

How's Bao Bao?

Bao Bao is doing great! She's still having fun climbing trees most days. She is very clever and has figured out how to unhook her enrichment toys when we clip them to hooks in her exhibit. When she hears her keepers in the training area just outside of her yard, she often climbs up into the trees to see what we are doing.

What's New with Mei Xiang and Tian Tian?

Now that we have had both male and female cubs we've noticed that Mei Xiang appears to interact with her male cubs slightly differently than she did with Bao Bao. She plays more with her male cubs than she did with Bao Bao. After consulting with panda experts at other zoos, we found that they have noticed the same thing. It may be that through the play sessions she is teaching the males important social lessons for the future. Our behavior watchers (who also manage the Panda Cam) have taken data on Mei and all of her cubs so that we can learn more about the interactions between them.

Tian Tian is also going great. He is in the middle of his rut season (breeding season) which lasts until late spring. During this time he can be restless because his hormones tell him to look for breeding females. Mei won't have an estrus cycle this year because she is still nursing Bei Bei. We give Tian Tian lots of extra attention during rut season, and offer him lots of fun enrichment activities. Right now he loves a good squirt from the hose! He plays in the water and cools off. In addition to always having access to his outdoor and indoor pools, we also give him tubs of non-toxic bubble bath to play with. (One of our keepers caught him playing in one recently!)

Don't forget to follow @smithsonianzoo on Instagram for more photos and videos!