Panda High Jinks

Posted at 2:42 pm December 26, 2008 by Ellie Rosenbaum

Thursday, December 18, was certainly a momentous day for panda fans in San Diego and elsewhere as the new loan agreement was signed, insuring that the pandas would be in residence at the San Diego Zoo for another five years. In anticipation of this day, lots of new plantings were placed in both of the viewing areas, in addition to the previously described modifications to the “lair” in the left-hand enclosure (see Ellie’s previous blog, New Digs for Pandas). And yes, Zhen Zhen is already demolishing some of the plantings, even as more have been added over the last week.

But was it the new shrubs or a hint of the excitement in the air? Early visitors (and staff) were treated that morning to a display of climbing and cavorting by Gao Gao the likes of which we haven’t seen outside of mating season (and yes, it’s way too early here in San Diego, based on our 12-year history). Trotting around the exhibit, vocalizing in several ways, and then climbing up the trees and shaking them, it was fun, exciting and very “un-Gao Gao.” There was no discernable (to me or the observers) noise in the area, but there was a Zoo photographer there to capture this unusual sight. It wasn’t raining or windy, no colder than earlier in the week.

I’d like to think (and I’m anthropomorphizing here!) that it was Gao’s little personal celebration of his extended stay. In reality he’d have no way of “knowing” anything about the human activities surrounding his place of residence, but it was still quite a coincidence….

Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

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40 Responses to “Panda High Jinks”

  1. Pepsi Coke says:


  2. Pam T says:

    I think Gao was just excited about the new digs and knowing he will be there with his beloved a while longer.

    I hope everyone had a good day yesterday with family and friends it sounds like all the zoo animals everywhere had a special day.

    I see that Prince Xi got to go on another big trip today out to the dayroom and up the logs. (Boy what a brag) LOL This time there was several vistors at the window to see him. I think moms trying to tell them to put the hammock back up.

  3. Calvin from Canada says:

    Great to hear that they can stay longer.Just wondering what the plan is now?I was hoping a new breeding pair may be possible.Also,what is the current plan for Su Lin, will she be leaving soon?

  4. Barbara in Midwest says:

    Love that Gao Gao! Whattaguy! Please post more pictures of him.

  5. Melissa says:

    Ellie, I anthropomorphize all the time, be it with the pandas, my cats, or myriad other animals. It’s fun to think that Gao Gao is as excited as all of his panda fans are and I think I will chalk his happy antics to that very thing. 🙂 You, too, must be thrilled that Gao and Bai will definitely be staying on for five more years!

  6. Stacy says:

    Please tell me there’s video of Gao! He’s such a funny bear. So glad they will stay in SDZ.

  7. pandafan says:

    Video alert!! go to youtube and search for ‘somersaultpanda2008’. It’s from NZ; I can’t tell if it’s Tai or Mei, but whoever it was, they were on something or especially delighted because almost the whole video is nothing but cavoring and somersaulting – fun!!!

    There is also a great 6-part series from CTV in China of pandas in the wild complete with many different vocalizations. Unfortunately there is no English translation, so you have to search for ‘panda’ then sort by ‘date added’. These were uploaded at around 7 a.m. Dec. 26 (mountain time). Watch for the listings with 5 squares followed by a dash then followed by 7 more squares and after that you will see the series numbers as in 1/6, 2/6, etc. until 6/6. You may have to move through several youtube pages to get to all 6 of them. Enjoy beautiful scenery and, of course, the beautiful pandas.

  8. Joy :) says:

    How neat to hear of Gao’s play day… a small glimpse into his “cub-hood” since no one knows the circumstances of his early life. It’s exciting to catch a glimpse of it and the timing is perfect. I hope we can access the zoo photographer’s photos of the special happenings.

    Maybe also he is getting ready for his Birthday Celebration coming up soon. (More anthropomorphizing) I know he has not had many actual celebrations for his bearday. I think it is fun to think of him playing and to think what he might be feeling. Anyways, it’s a better explanation than “it was a rainy day” especially since there are a lot of rainy days when he didn’t romp.

    I think it is SUPER news that Pandas will be at SDZ for another 5 years. You all have done such a wonderful job of learning about them, providing for their care and enrichment, and showcasing this amazing animal to the western world. Anytime I mention how much I love pandas, someone always brings up SDZ. It makes a huge impact on many people. And that is part of the goals of a zoological park. So, Thanks again for the good work you do keeping the pandas (and the other animals) happy and healthy. And here’s to at least another 5 years of Panda Antics in San Diego!!!

    Love, Joy 🙂

  9. Chari Mercier says:

    WOW!!!! Gao and Bai will be at SDZ for 5 more years of enjoyment and conservation education! YEA!!! I’m glad that this decision was made in our favor, and that will give the Chinese alot more time to get the research areas ready for more pandas since the earthquake hit, especially around Wolong. Hopefully, Su Lin will benefit from this decision as well, and ZZ has at minimum 3 more years at SDZ. This is great for the pandas because this will certainly reduce alot of stress from them as well as the SDZ panda keepers knowing that these pandas will have a stable home for a good long time. China needs that time to continue rebuilding and making sure that the new facilities at Wolong are very strong and hopefully earthquake proof. National Zoo, Atlanta Zoo, and Memphis Zoo will be looking at this historic decision and get with their Chinese representatives from Wolong and Chengdu to work out similar agreements for the pandas at their zoos. Will keep an eye out for that news!

    Got on the SDZ website this morning, and saw Bai and ZZ doing their power walking exercises around their yard. Bai will walk all the way to the wood fence and ZZ will do the shortcut turn as soon as Bai walks back in the other direction. This went on for quite a few minutes with Bai in the lead and ZZ following. Then the cam moved to another part of the yard, I saw Bai walking by, but there was no ZZ right in behind her! I think ZZ liked that end of the yard and just stayed there for awhile, probably up a tree! Then, I got on AZ’s panda site to check out Xi Lan and Lun. Xi Lan was in the main dayroom exhibit thanks to his mom bringing him in there. I watched him walk today!!! He was a little bit wobbly, but he was getting those 4 legs under him and moving forward! I was sooooooo happy and proud for him as he hits this milestone. He’ll be chasing his mom around once his mobility improves and he gets stronger. Then, the climbing skills will start to kick in. The panda keeper wrote in today’s update that the hammock will make a return appearance soon. Oh yeah, Xi Lan is now 13 1/2 pounds! It’ll be a shame that we won’t be seeing all of that once the AZ pandacam goes blank in 5 more days. Has anyone heard of anything about how AZ will save this cam yet? We’ll be needing alot of long youtube vids from all of the pandafans in the Atlanta, Georgia, area!

    Memphis Zoo’s pandacam is offline for maintenance work. They’ll have it back on soon when they are done with the work on the cam.

    Well, gonna go for now. Hope everyone had a very nice Christmas holiday, and now we’re all looking forward to 2009 in a week!

    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  10. Susan (UK) says:

    Gao Gao knows. While he is eating he is digesting (excuse the pun) all the things he can hear around him. He is very happy to be staying for another 5 years with his favourite lady, Bai. I too love Gao Gao – he is a sweet, intelligent and lovable bear.

  11. Suzanne (the other one) says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for the more than extremely rare picture of Gao Gao UP A TREE!! He does look like he’s got a huge smile – I’m so very happy that he and Bai get to stay! Climbing trees and shaking them, trotting around the exhibit! My goodness gracious! What a treat for anyone who caught it!

  12. Jim says:

    I think Gao Gao must have smelled and/or seen something of his Chinese visitors, which reminded him of his youth at the Chinese Panda Center. That would account for his excitement and antics…perhaps he could be ‘reminded’ more often.

    I too think it is wonderful news of the 5-year guaranteed stay for our Pandas at the SD facility. I really enjoy watching them on the I Net, and I look forward to visiting the Zoo to see them in person.

  13. Mary Lou says:

    How old is Gao Gao? Wish I could have seen him frolicking like that…all I ever see is him sitting back and eating his ‘bo’. Hopefully, with them being there for 5 more years, I will be able to get down there to see them. I live in San Jose CA but sometimes ‘getting away’ is difficult.

    Happy New Year to all the pandas and their care-takers.

    Moderator’s note: It is estimated that Gao Gao was born in 1990.

  14. Joy in Kansas says:

    Are you kidding? Gao Gao found out about the extended stay agreement from Mr. Tourist, of course. 🙂

  15. Lee in Vancouver says:

    Hi Ellie, I personally think Gao Gao is happy that he may get to mate with Bai again. He’s “over the moon” as they say. He’s a one-woman panda.

    Susan (UK), Thanks for your concern. By the time Christmas day was over we have over 28″ of snow, the most since 1964 and actually Canada was covered with snow from coast to coast which happens only about once every 60 years.

    Pamela G – Take care and hope you are your old self soon. Reading your past entries are just right for this year also.

    I was presented with a panda adoption certificate this year for Christmas. My daughter did it through WWF as she didn’t know SDZ did it also. I personally gave my daughter, mother and cat a certificate as I donated to the boo cooler in their names. Everyone (except the cat) loved the gift. I bet we will make the total in early January. How is the old cooler doing?

  16. Frances in NYC says:

    Whatever it was, what a great thing to see Mr. Gao Gao celebrating. Maybe he got wind of his party to come on Jan.15?

  17. nancy from michigan says:

    good news for SDZ! hopefully we will get to enjoy a couple more babies? we are definately very attached to OUR favorite pandas and are thrilled that we can enjoy them for an additional 5-years! hooray! very funny about gao gao’s antics! he must be happy!! we like to think he knows…….!

  18. Celfy says:

    Well it just shows that animals know more than us mere people think they do!

  19. Darlene (BC) says:

    I think he knew exactly what was happening, hence his excitement!! 🙂 Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

    Truly, I was thrilled to hear of the extension of the contract. We all had to wonder after the devestation in China if the Pandas would be able to stay in the USA longer, and I hope that the other Zoo’s that have these beautiful creatures have the same opportunity as the SDZ.

    Hope everyone at the Zoo and Wildlife Park had a truly wonderful Christmas, and a Very Happy New Year to all of you out there in Panda Land..

  20. Chet from Malaysia says:

    I was fortunate to have seen Gao Gao climb a tree during my visit in November 2006! It was close to his being returned indoors but the keeper was late. He walked around the entire exhibit (this was the off-exhibit classroom that had been opened to visitors because of some work being done to the public panda areas) and was even heard banging on the door at the back. Then he climbed the tree (more like a climbing structure) and looked over it, as if looking for the keeper. It was a treat to see him where I never thought he would go. And now it looks like he’s done it again. Good for him!

  21. Rose N. says:

    Panda Fans – The following video, with very humorous narration, taken on 12/26/08, will definitely put a BIG smile on your face. It shows several baby pandas waking up at the Panda Breeding Center in Chengdu, China.

    Goggle YouTube – EscapingBabyPandas Please type the words as shown – NO SPACES

  22. Michelle says:

    What is the latest amount on the boo cooler?

    Moderator’s note: At this time we are happy to report that we have raised $104,850 toward this urgent need for our pandas. We are just under $8,000 away from reaching our goal. We are still in desperate need of support at any dollar value in order to reach our goal of $112,550 by the end of this week. If you know of anyone that might be able to help us, please send this link to them. We thank you all for supporting for our giant pandas.

    Wish List Link:

  23. Jeri says:

    I just read that there is a verbal two-year agreement to keep the ZA cam going for another two years. Because of the holidays, the agreement hasn’t been signed. The source is confident that the agreement will be signed. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

  24. Susan (UK) says:

    How sweet! Lun Lun has put Xi Lan in the hammock and he’s fast asleep. She just went and checked on him, saw he was alright and has gone to eat her bamboo a few feet away. Reading the updates on him I hear he fell (or rather Lun Lun accidentally dropped him) from the top of the climbing structure, but he’s OK. He may also fall out of the hammock, but it’s nice and soft underneath so he’ll be OK. I am going to be so sad when the cam goes – I already missed a couple of days as the cam was offline.

  25. Pam T. says:

    I see Miss ZZ is out on a limb again today. The AZ has put the hammock back up and Prince Xi is now in it while mom is eating boo. It a good thing it’s back because Lun dropped him Saturday while up on the logs I knew she was wanting hammock back up. This was always Lun favorite place while nuring Mei Lan.

    Wishing everyone a Great New Year

  26. Susan (UK) says:

    Xi Lan didn’t get a chance to fall out of the hammock because Mum came along, hauled him off the hammock (still asleep) and then dragged him inside. I know it probably didn’t bother him but it made me cringe with pain!!

    Jeri #23, I hope you are right about the 2 year agreement.

    Lee, glad to see you survived the snow! Sorry your cat didn’t appreciate his/her gift, mine even put their nose up at a catnip mouse a friend gave them for Christmas!

  27. Linda A. says:

    Love the SDZ agreement! And here’s hoping the ZA agreement happens. Maybe then they will find a sponsor for the cam. Xi Lan is so important to us.

    As is the cooler to the our pandas here; I just made another small donation; hopefully, we can get this done by the end of the week!

    Moderator’s note: Thank you for your donation, Linda!

  28. Kris says:

    Hooray!! We get to keep “our” bears for another 5 years and possibly the ZA panda cam (Jeri #23) for another 2. GREAT NEWS on both counts. Was so happy to read of Gao Gao’s excitement and tree-climibing episode. Promptly went to the time-lapsed video’s for the day hoping to see it. No such luck but I love the picture of him up the tree with the HUGE smile on his face! Whether it be news of his extended stay, his upcoming 1st ever birthday celebration or the news that we have almost reached the bamboo cooler goal, I am glad to see he “cut loose” and had a grand time! Speaking of which, I think I need to make another donation to the cooler. Gotta do whatever it takes to keep the smile on Gao’s face! 😀

  29. Pam T says:

    Wow little Xi Lan climb over one of the thresholds this afternoon to get to mom but she was busy eating boo. The poor guy was covered with it and having a hard time making it to her. Boy I sure hope it’s true about the webcam at AZ because Xi is doing something new everyday now.

    I hope you reach your goal for the bamboo cooler this week I have made two donations this was my Christmas present to me.

    Moderator’s note: We thank you, Pam!

  30. Carol says:

    Jeri #23 thank you for the wonderful news!!

    Pamela G, all of my best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to health.

    And, meerkats, what a fabulous picture of Gao Gao . . . up a tree with a sweet smile on his handsome face, priceless!

  31. Joan says:

    I am so proud of all of the Pandaholics out there. To have raised over $100,000 in two weeks is truly astounding. I have now made another donation (like many others) and have added a “sack of sand” for the pandas. It makes me smile!! I’m very thankful to those who were able to donate the larger denominations noted, but also so pleased that over $20,000 has been raised in $5.00 increments. Just shows how every little bit helps.

    The pandas truly nourish my soul and I so cherish being able to play a small part in their lives.

    Moderator’s note: Thank you, Joan!

  32. Linda A. says:

    You are welcome for the donation! Wish I could do more.

    I just sent a letter to a newspaper in Atlanta to a reporter who has been covering the cam ending. We’ll see if I get a response. I’m just not accepting the fact that we won’t be able to watch Xi. (Yes, I actually do have a job, but I do work for myself!!! The pandas get a lot of my attention while I’m on the phone.) I realize the state of the economy. But if we can raise the money for a new cooler, why can’t we raise the money to support the cam for a year? They could take the donations up front to run it. Not pledges. They could factor in the cost to maintain it, repair, etc.

    Perhaps I’m just a dreamer! I just wish there was some type of dialogue from them.

    Moderator’s note: We are thrilled to announce that as of 3:55 p.m. this afternoon we have every dollar we need to fund the new bamboo cooler for our giant pandas. We can’t thank all of you enough for helping us reach our goal of $112,550 in just two weeks! In the coming months, we will be sure to post pictures of the bamboo cooler construction and installation. From all of us here – especially from Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, Gao Gao, and Bai Yun – thank you all again and have a Happy New Year!

  33. Frances in NYC says:

    Thanks, Rose #21 for directing us to that video–sooo cute. And that one that kept almost escaping looks like he’s going to be a climber like Mei Sheng.

    Jim #12–you might be right that the Chinese visitors somehow reminded him of his youth in China–maybe a smell or the sound of their voices. In any case, it’s good to see another side of Mr. G.

  34. Margaret says:

    For those who may have missed the addition at the end of the last blog topic after this one was started,

    the Moderator kindly went back and posted links to Pamela G’s “Panda Claws” poems from 2006 and 2007 for our post-holiday enjoyment. It is actually even more appropriate when reading that Gao and Bai will be with us for 4 more years and that their offspring will continue to gather in China as they reach 4 years of age. I can’t think of a better tribute to all our panda “friends” around the world.

    “Moderator, although Christmas is past, is it possible to reprint Panda Claws poem from 2007 for new and past readers to enjoy. It is very special and very meaningful to all of us. It is a tribute to Pamela G for her creativity and love of pandas around the world.”

    Moderator’s note: The first Panda Claws poem was posted as comment #2 on the following blog from December 15, 2006:

    The second Panda Claws poem was posted as comment #24 on this blog from December 17, 2007:

  35. Bobbie Wood says:

    First! To All Panda Fans!!! A Bamboo Cooler is coming! If you aren’t on the mailing list for news at the SDZ, you can sign up 🙂 Good News!!! I know we all contributed what we could and the Pandas will enjoy their fresh bamboo!

    To Susan in the UK #24, You can see Xi Lan fly like an incompleted pass by going to you tube….do the date added and click..this week….look for What goes up. 12/26 was the day. I happened to be watching the Panda cam when this happened. I’ve never seen Lun move so fast!!!

    To Everyone: I hope the news from Atlanta Zoo is true!! I was actually a bit mopey today as I watched AJ sleeping in the hammock as I thought ‘just two mmore days’.

    Did anyone see Zhen late this afternoon posing for the cam? What a doll! Thanks MeerKats for the great camera work!

    To All: Happy New Year!!! We are blessed to have the joy of the Pandas!!!

  36. Frances in NYC says:

    Yay!! I just read that the cooler has been fully funded! We did it, panda fans!

  37. Susan (UK) says:

    Congratulations SDZ on reaching your target for the cooler. I knew we’d do it. I’m very happy for the Pandas.

    Well done everyone.

  38. barbara says:

    Pamela G, wishing you a full and speedy recovery, Wishing you a healthy New Year. I’m alittle sad that we didn’t hear from Panda Claws this year but just maybe with all that has happened this year we all can imagine in our own minds just what the story would be like. Ask your self, who’s hosting, What’s the theme and what’s to eat, I’m sure there is plenty to talk about, the earthquake,the new baby,and our extended agreement for the Fab 4 with all our panda minds i’m sure we could come up with with one heck of a story. Wishing you all a Healthy Happy New Year. I think Ya Ya and Le Le are hosting this year and the theme is country western, a down home Christmas. haven’t figured the rest yet.

  39. marlene snyder says:

    What a Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you To the people of China who make it possible for us to have Pandas to enjoy 🙂 Would’nt it be neat if Zhen-Zhen & Shee-Lahn got together and had a baby:)

    You have to admitt it certainly sounds good 🙂 I also miss the AZ panda cam 🙁 I hope it will get enough revenue to support it running again. Just let us know if we the panda lovers can help!!!!!!!!!

    Happy New Year to everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. Susan Harrison, Santa Clara, CA says:

    Who would not be happy about the pandas being able to stay another 5 years! Yay!