As 4 1/2 month-old panda Zhen Zhen spends more and more time out in the great outdoors with her mother, Bai Yun, and less time inside in her den, she grows stronger and more coordinated. And it gets closer to the time that she’ll be introduced to all of us! She is still a young cub, however, and this introduction, as with those of her siblings, must be a gradual process, comfortable for both cub and mother. To this end, I was able to spend some time observing her this morning, speaking softly over a microphone as a panda narrator to help acclimate her to the sound as ambient noise in her outdoor environment.
So what’s she like, our newest little girl? Precious, of course, but she’s that just by being a panda cub. What a rascal! She has the obvious intelligence of Bai’s side of the family, and the fiesty spunk of Gao Gao and Mei Sheng! Clambering and rolling, trying to climb, as panda cubs will do, but instead of working up the slanted branches, Zhen Zhen is trying to climb straight up the vertical tree trunks! (Of course she falls, which is half the fun, as long as she doesn’t bump her nose or chin. Please do not gasp or yell; it’s all part of the process!) Checking out the shelter box, clambering through and mouthing the piles of bamboo, grabbing a mouthful of Mom’s fur and tugging for attention, showing all those baby panda behaviors that make them so endearing. She is livelier than Su Lin was at the same age, with Mei Sheng’s adventurous streak, I think. From the little I’ve seen, she’s going to be a handful, in the best possible way, for both Mom and the staff here. We’re already checking the tree limbs’ position and length, even though she’s “bearly” up off the ground. We know from past experience what adept climbers this young bears can be, especially if they’re in an inquisitive mood!
And what of Bai Yun, the Perfect Panda? The great experienced panda mother is eating a lot, taking fruitsicles and bamboo away from her curious cub, and sleeping, and nursing, and cuddling the cub; just doing the “good panda mom” thing. When I left them, they’d curled up together on the grass for a nap.
As of this moment, no definite plans for public viewing have been announced and I can tell you that schedules are changing, sometimes on a daily basis, so be patient with all of us at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station. Zhen Zhen is more than worth the wait!
Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.
Note: Zhen Zhen will make her public debut on Saturday, December 22. She will be out daily from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Giant Panda Research Station’s “classroom” exhibit.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Comments are currently closed. Pinging is not allowed.