Have you ever wondered how hard it is for a giant panda to survive in the wild? How hard it must be to cut down your bamboo from the forest, then sit and eat 12 to 14 hours a day just to survive?
Male pandas take large areas and females a little less, seldom leaving their territory, working daily eating bamboo. In a closed, protected environment they truly do not have to work at survival. While living at the Giant Panda Research Station at the San Diego Zoo, the pandas have good benefits: climate-controlled bedrooms, a gardener to cut the bamboo, keepers, vets, and much more.
All the animals at the Zoo have the best of benefits because we are in the business of making animals happy with good care. Since the pandas are here on loan from China, we must take special care of them. But we take special care of all our animals, with the very best of everything. I have to chuckle…they have better benefits than most of us, but we are not endangered, like so many animals of our world. Caring for the pandas is up to their keepers and we have the best! They not only provide for their care but also for their enrichment. It is so nice to watch the keepers care for the pandas, not only cleaning their enclosures but taking the time for training and just small talk with them.
Pandas are pretty smart animals and they like the attention. Mei Sheng (pictured) is the most needy of the bears. He wants that touch and to be fed apples–anything for the attention. The other day, Mei Sheng was in rare form and our guests were enjoying watching him be a silly bear. One guest said to another, “Here, let me move so you can take a photo.” The other guest replied, “No, I don’t have a camera but I do have a very good memory.”
Mei Sheng is often the most active of the bears here and at times it is hard to move our guests through the station when so much activity is going on. He loves to play and is so much fun to watch as he climbs high into the trees and hangs by his hind legs. I’m so glad that pandas are here in San Diego and I hope you will enjoy them as well.
Kay Ferguson is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.
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