Little Zhen Zhen is doing well and charming anyone who crosses her path. In the last two weeks, her walking skills have come online, and she is able to get her belly up off the ground well as she traverses the obstacles in her surroundings. She is routinely coming out of the den under her own power, exploring her bedroom or sunroom area, and often chooses to nap in the bedroom instead of returning to the den.
For her part, Bai Yun is beginning to give us mixed signals about the status of the “denning phase.” On Tuesday morning, keepers discovered she had defecated repeatedly in the den overnight. Clearly, the den isn’t being held in as high regard as it was previously. After the keepers cleaned out her den yesterday, little Zhen chose to crawl back inside and nap. Additionally, Bai Yun has used the den overnight since and managed to keep it clean. Any way you slice it, though, the denning phase is clearly winding down.
Soon Zhen will get an opportunity to explore the large, complex classroom exhibit her mother has been frequenting for weeks. Just yesterday the keepers gently coaxed Zhen into the tunnel area that links her bedrooms to the classroom. Little effort was needed, since our engaged little panda is curious and bold. She moved easily through the tunnel and stepped onto the ledge separating the classroom and tunnel areas. That was enough for one day, however, as she soon turned back and made her way back toward the bedrooms. Once there, her exploits clearly exhausting, she crashed for a long nap.
We’ll see how well and how quickly Zhen adapts to this new challenge in her life. Before Bai Yun knows it, she’ll have a daily companion in the classroom. If our last several cubs are any indicator, she’ll be climbing high in the trees in no time!
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician with the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Unit.
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