Pandas, Elephants, K-Rats

Posted at 4:06 pm August 20, 2010 by Alyssa Hall

Zhen Zhen

Performing giant panda vaginal swabbing, watching Mabu the bull elephant mount a phantom cow for semen collection, and extracting hormones from Stephens’ kangaroo rat poop—all in a day’s work as a Reproductive Physiology Division summer fellow at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. It is hard to believe that my 12 weeks here is already coming to a close. Everyone at the Institute has been so friendly and welcoming, which can be difficult to find in the world of research. I feel I have become part of their conservation family.

When deciding on a topic to write about, it was difficult to pick just one because I’ve had many exciting experiences while working here, and each day holds new adventures and animal encounters. This summer I’ve touched a Sumatran tiger, a cheetah (which purred!), fed a rhino and a giraffe, and watched a friendly badger meander down our hallway most Friday afternoons. Every day at the Institute is an adventure, and when I walk through the doors, I never know what animal I could encounter that day. One of the days I found the most fascinating occurred Thursday, August 5….

I knew it was going to be an exhilarating day because we were headed to the Zoo for panda Zhen Zhen’s pre-shipment exam (the vets check her before we send her to China). In the Reproductive Physiology lab, we are currently working on finding a way to better understand giant panda pregnancy and a way to diagnose it earlier after breeding. Pandas only have one estrous cycle a year! This gives us only a few opportunities to breed them during their time here at the Zoo.

Pandas can also go through pseudopregnancy (or “false” pregnancy). Currently we are unable to diagnose a real pregnancy from a false one using hormone tests. This is where Zhen Zhen and Su Lin come in. We’ve taken many vaginal swab samples from Su Lin during her false pregnancy (she wasn’t mated this year, so we knew she wasn’t really pregnant). We then extract the RNA from these samples in hopes of finding out which genes are expressed when she is cycling or when she’s pregnant. This will help us to better tell a pregnancy from a pseudopregnancy. If we find out soon after breeding that a female isn’t pregnant, we may be able to inseminate the panda again before her breeding season is over for the year.

On this particular day with Zhen Zhen, we were going to use her samples as a control in our experiment because we knew she was not pregnant. Barbara Durrant, Ph.D., director of Reproductive Physiology and Henshaw Chair, also performed an ultrasound on Zhen Zhen to get a better understanding of the giant panda reproductive anatomy. To this day, no one has seen a giant panda placenta!

Elephant Mabu with one of his calves

Following the fun morning at the Zoo, we returned to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, historically known as the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, and to the elephant barn, where we sat and waited for African bull elephant Mabu to pee. Why were we sitting around waiting for an elephant to pee? Well, because the keepers discovered that when Mabu urinates, he also gets in the mood to breed. We then use this natural behavior for semen collection. Since Mabu and the whole herd here at the Park are from Africa, they are new to elephant collections in North America. Therefore, if we are able to collect semen from Mabu and ship it to other zoos across the country, it will help increase genetic diversity within African elephants in North America. After a collection success with Mabu, we returned to the lab.

This summer I have learned a lot about hormones and hormone assays. In the Reproductive Physiology lab, we use hormone assays, or tests, to diagnose pregnancy, estrous cycles, ensure that contraceptives are working, and measure the stress of an animal.

My summer project was monitoring stress in Stephens’ kangaroo rats (SKRs). As you know from Debra Shier’s earlier posts (see Mountain Lions Help Kangaroo Rats?), the Institute is working to expand the geographic range of these locally endangered creatures to ensure that they will not be susceptible to catastrophic events such as wildfire, disease outbreak, and flooding. My part in this project was to find out the baseline/normal stress levels for SKRs, which stress hormone SKRs produce, and if we can measure hormone(s) using feces to detect stress.

This summer I found out that SKRs produce two different stress hormones, both cortisol and corticosterone, and I characterized their nightly stress hormone pattern. With the data I’ve generated this summer, the Institute will be able to use stress hormone monitoring in the future for their translocation project to better understand how well the translocation process is going.

It has truly been a joy to work for this extraordinary organization. I will definitely miss walking through its doors every day and seeing the smiling faces of everyone who works here.

Alyssa Hall is the Wheedon Endowed Summer Fellow in the Reproductive Physiology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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58 Responses to “Pandas, Elephants, K-Rats”

  1. sonya says:

    Hi g-daughter: what a great synopsis of your summer at the Wild Animal Safari Park. It was wonderful to read what you have done and we really enjoyed your talk earlier and meeting your mentors. Debbie was so nice and the two men were lots of fun. Good luck in your final year and keep us posted.

  2. Vonna says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your summer fellowship and thanks for your contributions to their work. I enjoyed and learned from your ‘what I did this summer’ remarks. Good luck in your future studies and work.

  3. Annie Panda says:

    Thank you, Alyssa, for the post. That picture of Zhennie and her cake is so cute! And the photo of the little elephant baby and his papa, Mabu is soo adorable!

  4. Bobbie Wood says:

    Dear Alyssa and also your grand-mother Sonya #1: What a wonderful article written about your summer! You both should be very proud of your accomplishments! I am consistently thrilled to discover how many opportunities available in career choices today! I fear that in my early years ( I’m now 65), the career choices touted were elementary education, motherhood, airline stewardess. Good Grief! I am so pleased that the role models for women have grown. 🙂 Sonya, bless you for your words to your grand-daughter! Alyssa, bless you for following your dreams! SDZ bless you for creating the programs!

  5. Virginia Spiegler says:

    Stress analysis and breeding. Wow,what an opportunity! But SDz has everything one can use to learn one’s career.

    Mabu, what a story!! Thanks for all you saw and learned and passed on to us!! And to other zoos for their use. I wold bet you were loved by one and all. SDZ is full of loving creatures and zoo family.

  6. Bobbie Wood says:

    To All: Video alert 🙂 Royko123 Panda has several new videos from August 20th….Zhen Zhen 🙂 Here’s a link to one…you then should be able to find the rest 🙂

  7. Lisa in Colorado says:

    Thanks for sharing what’s been happening. It’s fascinating. We wish you well in your education and career.

  8. marie says:

    I feel so proud of our Mabu! He has fathered the Three Musketeers, Khosi, Kami, Punga, Moosie (well, maybe not Moosie), but just think! Little Lootie, Mac and Baby will some day be proud fathers of more genetically precious little ones, donating their African diversity to elephant populations in North America. It makes me feel so very proud, and protective, of these lil’ guys!

    Moderator’s note: You’re right: not “Moosie,” but certainly all of the other six calves. 😉

  9. Joan says:

    What a wonderful and interesting summer you have had!

    I can feel your enthusiasm…… best of luck with your future studies and thank you for your dedication to the animals!

  10. Daisy says:

    This was an interesting post — thank you.

    Is it known what purpose, if any, is served by pseudopregnancy?

  11. Marilyn in California says:

    Alyssa, What a great opportunity — working so closely with the animals! Sounds like a fascinating career if you pursue it. Best of luck!

  12. Danielle, NY says:

    It was nice to see three of “our” pandas just now playing with their boxes and all the panda fans!! Where is Yun Zi? Too much attention for him???

  13. Mary in Brooklyn says:

    Caught “The Wave”. Thanks, SDZ. Looked like everyone was having a wonderful time; while Bai was making use of the box she had with her.

  14. Annie Panda says:

    I hope everybody who went to the Black & White Overnight had a great time! I totally forgot to watch the Panda Cam at 8:30 to see all of the people wave 🙁 . Well I hope everything went well, and I really would like to hear all about it! Peace, Love and Pandas CIAO!

  15. Linda A. / NorCA says:

    Alyssa, what a great opportunity for you! Thank you for your post. It was really, really interesting.

    AND THANK YOU, SDZ, FOR THE PANDA WAVE THIS MORNING!!!! It was really great to see so many of my friends (and their ears), and all the pandaholics. Thank you again………………looks like everyone was having a great time. I knew that feeling they had walking into panda canyon — quiet, lush, and beautiful — and the sight of the pandas. Congrats to all you attended. I am very happy for you all. And a special thank you to my friends…….

  16. Frances in NYC says:

    Zhennie’s really zoomin’ today!

  17. Margaret in VA says:

    Thanks, Alyssa, sounds like you have had the summer of a lifetime of dreams. Thanks for your help with research, and best wishes for your career in animal physiology research.

  18. Dianne in Texas says:

    Alyssa, thank you for sharing some of your summer of work. You had a very diverse course of work. Although I can’t pretend to totally understand all of what you were doing, I can see that it was very exciting for you, and shows that you will be a very dedicated scientific researcher. Most of us could be rather envious of your role in getting up close and personal with the animals. Best wishes to you in your future research ventures.

    Thank you, San Diego Zoo, for all your work for conservation research.

  19. Britney says:

    More bamboo talk, I wish bamboo product makers would tell on the tag what type of bamboo it is made out of. But what if a pandas faverite bamboo “dies off” and other bamboo is not left because of people cutting down bamboo. Then what will the panda eat? I Googled to see how many stores sell bamboo, and there was 3,600,000 results. My other question is how many bamboo stalks does it take to make a thick bamboo cutting board? 5, 10? Since bamboo is becoming so in fashion, right now it might only be a not so out of control problem but what about a month from now? :O

  20. GRAMMMIE says:

    # 10 DAISY The purpose is to keep the Pandas on their toes, and the Nannykeepers also. When Mama gets a year off she keeps in practice by having a pseudopregnancy. Not olnly that but but the Nannykeepers get to practice all of the routines of the final days of a Panda Baby Watch. The Nannykeepers also get used to having night shifts, but having their boyfriends over is a no-no. I guess that I would be no help at all since I just got up 2 hours ago and I am now ready to take my nap. I am not really sure if there is a reason but I bet the moderator or somebody liker her will put some thing in this column to help you.

  21. Dennis & Lynn Carney NW NJ says:

    Greetings from NW NJ as I have been Beary busy with my job 50 hours a week and the 38 miles each way commute…My wife Lynn is now in her 20th. month in the Hospital but we’re HOPING that she gets released Beary soon as I will take 8 to 12 weeks of family Leave to get her reacclimated to the real world as well as taking her into NYC 3 times a week for treatment… Will let you all know when she gets released as we will surely visit the SDZ when we visit her SoCal Doctors…

  22. pam says:

    Alyssa thanks for the really informative blog. sounds like you got some good experience.

  23. Lucilla says:

    In the hushed concert hall, the spot light follows a tiny, relatively tiny, figure in a snug tux, making his way to the grand piano.

    The conductor lifted his baton and the Panda Philharmonic played the opening bars of The Bamboo Cycle written by Gao Gao. Young Gao Yun Zi is showing signs of brilliance as he managed to coax beautiful yearning sounds from the balck and white ivories. The Bamboo Cycle was written by Gao Gao to reflect the cycles in a panda’s life; going overseas, having babies, returning home. It is a celebration of love, loss, the pain of separation and the joy of being alive in the bamboo grooves of one’s homeland.

    As the piece entered into its third movement, Lady Su Lin and Lady Zhen Zhen move silently to join the orchestra. They were playing the gu zhen, a Chinese stringed instrument. They matched their brother note for note.

    In the finale, the spot light shifted to the Grand Dame Bai Yun who wafted on stage to sing the aria. Her mezzo soprano soared and filled the hall with its notes of love and longing.

    ‘That’s my girl,’ maestro Gao Gao was heard muttering as he was lost, enraptured by the music and the melodious singing.

    And as the last notes trailed away, there was a deafening silence and then all the pandas and hoomans were on their feet, shouting, ‘Bravo, Bravo!!’

    Yun Zi stood and bowed and then directed the attention to the Panda Orchestra and his sisters. And then the audience rained roses and apple snackies onto the stage when Madame Bai came forward for her ovation. Clad in a midnight blue gown, she looked magnificient. Then Gao Gao bounded on stage and the hall when wild as the pandas and hoomans were acknowledging a music genius for their time.

    He motions for silence, ‘Thank you friends for coming to the debut of my first composition. It is insipred by my family’s story and is dedicated to my beautiful wife Bai Yun and all our children, Mei Sheng, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen and Yun Zi and also step child Hua Mei. My heart is filled with gratitude for all the love tonight and wonderful support for Pandas and by Pandas. May we work together for a future where Pandas are no longer endangered!’

    And as the audience streamed into the night, many were still humming the bars of the final aria. It was a magical musical night.

  24. Lucilla says:

    YZ: Mama, will I go to China too like my jie jies?

    BY: Yes, when you are 3 years old, you will go to China.

    YZ: How will I get there?

    BY: You will be put into a big box for your safety. And this box is placed on a plane. You will be feed boo and snackies while on the plane.

    YZ: Cool, I hear airline food is good. Will it be a long trip?

    BY: China is far away so yes, it will be a long trip. Almost a day.

    YZ: Will I be alone? Are you coming with me?

    BY: The nanny keeper from SDZ will be with you and also your new nannykeeper from China. I wont be going along the trip but one day Papa and I will retire to China too.

    YZ: Oh goody! And I will have lots of new friends in China too.

    BY: Yes and when you reach 5 years of age, you may get mated with a lady Panda.

    YZ: Hee Hee, then I become a Papa too?

    BY: Yes, and make us proud grandparents.

    YZ: Can I play with my baby?

    BY: In our culture, it is the mama who looks after the baby.

    YZ: Maybe I can change that. I want to be a hands on Papa.

    BY: Haha, you can try if your mate will let you.

    YZ: Do I choose my mate?

    BY: The nice hoomans at the Conservation Centre will find one nice lady Panda for you.

    YZ: Will she be pretty?

    BY: I am sure she will be a nice girl.

    YZ: Cool. I can always send via my iPAW news to you and Papa and all the nice aunties and uncles here in SDZ.

    BY: And there is web cam too.

    YZ: Will I be getting a new brother or sister?

    BY: We will see.

    YZ: Can it be a brother please? I think my 2 sisters are the bestest so a brother will be nice.

    BY: We will see.

    YZ: Yay, a baby brother is coming!!

    BY: I said we will see and we will see next Spring if Papa and I can make a baby.

    YZ: OK, sounds like fun.

    BY: We have enjoyed making all our babies especially you.

    YZ: Hee hee, I hear it is on video. I must ask the nannykeeper to let me see it.

    BY: When you are older and when Papa has a chance to teach you about making babies.

    YZ: COOL! Can’t wait, so much to learn. Mama!

    BY: Yes, dear?

    YZ: I wuv you this much! (Stretches his paws outwards.)

    BY: ANd I love you this much (She grabs him and tosses him.)

    YZ: Hee Hee, Heeelp!

  25. Bobbie Wood says:

    To All: Another viedo(s) alert 🙂 Ryoko123panda has several new videos from 8/22 fun! Here’s a link to the first one:

    Also, DoxiMom has several on her Flikr site also from the 22nd:

    The Overnight Artists really had fun making the boxes for the pandas!!! Can’t wait to hear all about all the fun!!

  26. Anne in NYC says:

    Thanks, Lucilla, for another wonderful story. Hope that the Gao family will find a way to continue to be together for special events although the girls will be a continent away. I also can’t get the picture of Yunnie in a tight tux out ofmy mind!

  27. Elisa in Brazil says:

    I’ve just read at “pandas live on” that today Su LIn and Zhen Zhen are going to China.

    Safe trip for all.

    My heart is with you. Love!

  28. Annie Panda says:

    I was just on the Pandas Live On website, and it said that Zhen Zhen and Su Lin are leaving August 23 which is TODAY! That just can’t be true, wouldn’t the zoo have told us first when they are leaving?! I don’t want them to leave today, I’m not ready!

    Moderator’s note: Zhen Zhen and Su Lin are still here.

  29. Frances in NYC says:

    Another great story, Lucilla!

    Can’t wait to hear from all the B&W Overnighters about their experiences.

    Alyssa–you are so lucky to have had such an interesting and productive summer!

  30. Marie says:

    I was so happy to see Zhennie on cam this morning. 🙂 Also, I thought the girls would no longer be on exhibit as of August 16th, but from the YT videos I’ve seen, people are still able to go see them.

    Bobbie # 25 – That user takes great videos, especially of Zhennie. They are so clear and crisp. She is such a clean bear. 🙂

  31. Annie Panda says:

    #23 and #24 Lucilla- Thank you, Lucilla, for the 2 stories. They are both wonderful and creative, keep on writing!

  32. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi! Nice article about the reproductive process of some of the animals at SDZ/WAP, especially the pandas and elephants. That was very interesting to read and learn about.

    Well, I got on the Pandas International website a few days ago to see if there were any more news about baby pandas being born lately. Guess what? There were more baby pandas that were born at Bifengxia in the last couple of weeks or so. The latest birth came from female momma panda Ge Ge, who had a baby girl panda cub on 8/9/2010 and weighs 159 grams. The other momma pandas with newborn cubs are Zhu Yun (boy), Ju Xiao (twins-2 boys), Long Xin (1 cub), Shui Ziu (twins), Cao Cao (1 cub), Na Na (1 cub), Mei Qing (1 cub), and Ju Ni (1 cub), 12 in all at Bifengxia. Some of the cubs have not had their genders determined yet, but we’ll find out about that when PI gets the news. Also, Chengdu has had 2 baby pandas born since late July. The momma pandas with newborn cubs are Er Yatou (boy, 175 grams), and Jiao Zi (boy, 108 grams). All of the cubs are doing very well with their moms or in the nursery, including the cub that was brought down from Beijing Zoo to Bifengxia. Both Bifengxia and Chengdu Panda Bases are expecting more cubs in the next few days and weeks.

    I have also been checking the Atlanta Zoo website’s panda page for updates about the latest on Lun Lun’s road to pregnancy and a possible cub, but nothing has come in so far. Lun Lun is still being monitored thru hormone analysis and ultrasounds. Lun Lun was 58 days after AI on 8/10, and is now 71 days as of today, 8/23. The waiting continues!

    Read about polar bear Chinook on the polar bear blog, and the keepers and vets are starting to monitor her alot more closely and got her back into the ultrasound testing routine pretty quickly. They are looking forward to seeing Chinook with one or two cubs later this fall!

    I’m also been busy watching NZ’s ferret cam and having fun watching the 3 ferret kits grow like crazy and being kids right now! It’s amazing that these black footed ferret kits are as tiny as baby pandas when they are born, but by the time they are 2 months old, they are almost the size of their mother and weaned off of milk by now! NZ’s Front Royal facility had a record 49 baby ferrets this year, and most of them will be headed west for training to reintroduced to the wild. Plus, 2 lionesses are due to have lion cubs late this month (Aug.) and by mid September at the zoo in DC.

    Well, that’s all of the baby news for now. Going to the pandacams to see who is on the cam right now!

    Chari Mercier 🙂

    St. Pete, FL

  33. Danielle, NY says:

    #80 lj – Previous blog

    I heard and read about flood around Chengdu, Sichuan, I think it is where a train fell off a washed out bridge. But Su Lin and Zhen Zhen are going to Bi Feng Xia, and even though it is in the same province I didn’t see info of flood around there. I hope the reserve and the pandas in Chengdu are OK. It is where Mei Lan is now. It is also where 4 pandas are in semi-wilderness.

    I have also been concerned about the pandas and while doing a search on Panda and flood, I came across an article in “The Herald” from August 13th but I have not been able to open the full article:

    “Heavy rains bring smiles to Chinese panda research workers”

    “XI’AN. Though relentless downpours have caused continuous miseries for the country, it has brought smiles to the faces of the workers in a giant panda research centre in northwest China, as the three giant pandas in the facility withstood being tested by the recent torrential rains.”

    So, I hope the pandas are still doing well. I suspect that if there was a problem, we would know. But as the rain and flood have been a tragedy in Pakistan, the devastation is quite substantial in China as well.

  34. Marilyn in California says:

    #23 and #24 Lucilla: I love your stories!

  35. Lucilla says:

    Dear Moderator,

    It is about 6.30 pm on Panda Cam and I saw Yunnie dragging bamboo up to his hammock and he was ‘playing’ or seems to be’eating’ the boo. Has he started eating solids? Does this mean he will be weaned from Bai Yun and be separating from her soon? He has grown up fast. Amazing boy.

    Warmest Regards,


    Moderator’s note: Our other cubs were weaned at about 17 to 18 months of age, and I’m sure Yun Zi will be weaned at around that same time (he’s just 12 months old right now). In the meantime, he is indeed practicing with that stuff he sees Mom eating. 😉

  36. Annie Panda says:

    I hate to see them go, and I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m happy for them also. They’re truly growing up, and though it’s a hard pill to swallow, I know it’s for the best. I wish the best of luck to them! I love you ZZ and Su! Hugs and Kisses to the both of you! 🙁 🙂

  37. GRAMMMIE says:

    THANK YOU GUYS FOR THE WONDERFUL stories, information, and all of the extra blogs these last two weeks.

    LUCILLA-I have a little problem with that satin tux—the one with the pearls both outling the lapeles and tails, and decorating the lapeles. I am not sure if it was first “dreamed up” for the fashion show, or his “dream wedding” (he was the planner, decorator, travel coordinator, groom, he did everything but the bridal gown and catering), and still Momma Bai could not get the bride’s name. Except for his days at the beach to surf I always picture him in that darned tux every time I start to read his stories from you. Have you guys got a deal about the tux being imbedded in my head or something, or is it just me with a problem??? Surely I see men dressed in more than their beach baggies and ready for a prom 40 or 50 years ago….I may not be out much but between the TV, Movies, and the computer I can see even more than I want to. Please send my brain to the laundry or wherever it can be straightened out ando pressed into place…….Thank You….Love Grammmie—-and love to all of the overnighters.

  38. kathy says:

    Great news, Yang Yang of Vienna gave birth to a another cub last night on Fu Long’s third birthday no less!! Congratulations to the Vienna Zoo and all their fans!!!

  39. Susan H., N. CA says:

    I must say that I am sooooo glad to see the girls on panda cam yesterday….any delay is welcomed at this point!

  40. Inge, Vienna says:

    Great surprise for us in the Zoo Schönbrunn Vienna a panda cub has been born. Exactly three years to Fu Long there came again a panda cub. Unfortunately, we have no Webcam like in San Diego Zoo. Before 20 days was born a Elephant cub and now a Panda cub!!!!!!

    Cuddle for Yun Zi and greetings to all from Vienna

  41. Lucilla says:

    Great News! Yang Yang and Long Hui from Zoo Vienna are new parents!!!! Yay, Yay, they had the baby the natural way….Now lets pray for Lun Lun…

  42. Joy :) says:

    I have a quick question…
    Is the cam time right???

    It is 10:00 AM in New Jersey and the cam time stamp was 07:23.

    Just wondering
    Joy 🙂

    Moderator’s note: No, our Panda Cam time is off by about 20 minutes.

  43. Annie Panda says:

    Congratulations to Yang Yang for giving birth to a new cub!! I hope the baby panda is healthy, and everything is going will for it. I hope it can a live a long, happy life and be a wonderful mama or papa panda one day! 🙂

  44. Marie says:

    Awww yay for Yang & Long! It’s always great news when a cubbie is born! Hopefully they are like Bai & GG and have lotsa cubbies.

    *fingers crossed for Lunnie*

  45. Marie says:

    Some cute videos I came across this morning: I love watching pandas play in water Look at da big cuties! Those Beijing pandas are just too cute! Little cuties!

  46. Frances in NYC says:

    Yay!! Zhennie, Su, and Yunnie have a new cousin in Vienna!

  47. Mary in Brooklyn says:

    I wonder if the heavy rains that hit the Ya’an region last week have delayed Su and Zhen’s departure. Ya’an had almost 15″ of rain between 8/17-20. (Check it out on the weather channel.) Someone on another blog reported that part of the road from Ya’an to BFX had been closed by a landslide. That closure would not affect the road up to BFX from Chengdu, but the road up the mountain to the base is an adventure. We did it in rain with the driver of our bus basically laying on his horn all the way up and back. I assume there will no other other traffic permitted on the road up while Su and ZZ are being transported up. The road closure also did not affect the bamboo supply which they get from Shangli Town, although I wonder if the river that runs through Shangli has flooded. Just hope it all dries out by September 27!!

  48. Mary in Brooklyn says:

    P.S. Congratulations on the new Vienna cub. Born on Fu Long’s 3rd birthday, no less. That’s what I call great timing.

  49. Danielle, NY says:

    Congratulation to Yang Yang and Long Hui: Fu Long became a big brother on his third birthday!!

    You can see the first pictures of Yang Yang and her new born cub, sex not yet determined, on this website:


    After Fu Long’s birth the Vienna Zoo had a pandacam, I hope they will start one for this newborn


  50. Danielle, NY says:

    #47 Mary in Brooklyn – Thanks Mary for that info. I have been trying to follow the news of the flooding in China and how it might impact the pandas ever since I heard of the news of a bridge being destroyed by the current in Chengdu, Sichuan. Even with a Google map, it is hard to figure out what impact it could have on the pandas. Of course the devastation for the humans is not to be ignored either. But since you have been there and know the villages around and the roads, you are much better equipped to assess the impact.

    It is funny to read the article about the new cub on the Vienna Zoo website. Apparently, ultrasound did not detect Fu Long before his birth. Or the existence of his twin which died at birth (my personal comment). This time around, after many ultrasound exams, at the beginning of August they finally could see the cub, but after that Yang Yang decided that she would have none of it and they just had to wait, holding their thumb (German equivalent to crossing your fingers). It reminded me of the comment by Megan Owen a few blogs back that Bai Yun decided, one month before Yun Zi’s birth, that she would not have anything to do with the hearing study!!! Divas or to-be-mamas knowing better!!!

  51. Marie says:

    Another cute video: (birds and pandas in the pool)

  52. cindy in kc says:

    Do the ellie’s ears ever stop flapping? I know it is done for ‘fanning’ purposes,but do they ever stop?

    Moderator’s note: When the weather is cool, the flapping decreases.

  53. GRAMMMIE says:

    GOOD NEWS TRAVElS FAST. Fu Long of Vienna (and China) has a baby brother or sister today ! Great News—Way to go VIENNA.

  54. Maureen in Stanwood, Mi says:

    Way to go Vienna – another cub-how excitig

  55. Pat says:

    I was wondering if there has been a successful insemination of Mabu’s semen? Any calves born at other zoos?

  56. Alyssa Hall says:


    The Wild Animal Park and the Institute have been trying for the past three years to collect semen from Mabu. We’ve tried massaging his prostate gland rectally with little success. The sperm we collected was not viable, we assume from urine contamination. No one has ever tried using a phantom cow and an artificial vagina (AV) with an elephant, so Dr. Barbara Durrant had the AV and the phantom cow specially made. For the past six or so months, we have been training Mabu to stand on the cow. This summer we were ecstatic if he entered the AV. As of yet, he has not fully comprehended what the AV is for, but it will only be a matter of time. It has been difficult to find the correct angle for him to enter the AV in order for it to feel the most natural. Once we do have semen from him, we hope to be able to ship it to other zoos. His semen would help diversify the genetic pool of the current elephant collections here in North America since he was rescued from Africa some seven years ago. But before we can ship his semen to other zoos, we would have to find a proper semen preserving technique in order to keep the semen viable throughout the shipping process.

    I hope this helps!

  57. Pat says:

    Alyssa -Thank you for answering, very interesting.

  58. GRAMMMIE says:

    # 24 YUN ZI Do not worry about having family and friends when it is your turn to go to China. Your oldest sister has 7 neices and nephews for you to be Uncle Yun Zi to. By then your big brother might also have some neices and nephews to play with too. If Su Lin marries quickly and does things lilke the rest of the family you willl not be able to remember all of the babies names. To top it off you willl have cousin Princess Lin Ping, cousin Fu Long (Happy Birthday to him—-his mama and pappa had a brand new baby the day Fuey turned 3)-they live in Vienna and will teach us great music. Cousin Tai Shan is in China, and by then cousin “The X-Man” will be there too. Now if all lof those brothers, sisters, the panda ladies you have yet to meet, cousins, friends you will make on your own, if you stsrt like Mei Sheng. and visit other Pandas right away you will be infamous too, but only if you win the fight. You will be too busy to miss us, but if we are sent frequent photos and videos of you then we will not miss you too much. Love Grammmie and all of your Nannykeepers, and every loving Aunties and Uncles and other loved ones at the sdz.