Decision Maker Bai Yun

Posted at 4:35 pm September 13, 2010 by Anastasia Horning

Bai with a young Zhen Zhen

We have had five giant pandas born at the San Diego Zoo, and with each cub we are learning more and more about this unique bear! One thing that we know for sure is that panda mother Bai Yun knows what she is doing, and she’s the best one to make decisions for her cubs while each is under her care. What decisions does she make? Well, lots of them!

From the beginning it has been Bai Yun that has decided when each cub can come out of the den for the first time, when to encourage her cub to climb, and when that cub is ready to go! One of the things our Panda Team observers do is document behaviors in this process. As a panda narrator, I educate guests about giant pandas and what we do at the Giant Panda Research Station, but I also did keeper work. Having that opportunity to watch the pandas for hours at a time as a narrator helped me when I worked with the pandas as a keeper, and I was able to share information that I had observed with our Panda Team.

I was recently asked by Zoo guests if I thought Bai Yun will wean Yun Zi earlier than her previous cubs. There is no simple answer to this. Over the next few months we will be watching and documenting Bai Yun’s behavior as usual. Right now, even though she does sometimes redirect Yun Zi from nursing, she eventually does let him nurse. Bai Yun is experienced and comfortable, but never negligent, with her cubs!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo.

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68 Responses to “Decision Maker Bai Yun”

  1. kat w says:

    Thank you, Anastasia. Just curious, why is the Research Team eager to have Bai ween Yun Zi? Is it specifically because he is bothering her and she gets irritated, and because of this, she might eventually hurt him?

    Thank you for any input!

  2. kat w says:

    p.s. No disrespect intended for the Research Team.

    Thanks again.

    Moderator’s note: Anastasia just meant that guests often ask her if Yun Zi is ready for weaning. We know he’s not ready yet, as he’s just a year old!

  3. inparadise says:

    Great post Anastasia! It appears to me that there are “unspoken” rules between Bai and Yun Zi, and all Bai has to do to remind the little one that she is in charge, is to look at him in a certain way, and he straightens right up. It kind of reminds me of when I was growing up, my most feared words were “wait until your father gets home”.

  4. Margaret in VA says:

    Thanks, Anastasia for your insights from both the Keeper and the Narrator perspective, the best of both worlds in Panda land.

  5. Lucilla in Singapore says:

    Dear Anastasia,

    It is really heartening to hear that SDZ allows the matriach Bai Yun to decide on matters maternal and not arbitarily decided by financial or other reasons. Perhaps this has reduced any anxiety and the cubs and Mama are relaxed and well adjusted. Thank you for placing the Pandas first.

  6. Karen in Edmonton AB Canada says:

    Thanks again for the updates. Bai Yun is such a good Mom.

  7. kat w says:

    Thank you, Moderator, that’s what I was hoping to hear! I know people ask every kind of question possible and that’s probably one most asked!


  8. Delia says:

    How sweet!

    Bai knows what’s best for her cubs just like any other mother 🙂

  9. Karen of Chandler says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t it a year and a half that Yun Zi should be weaned from his mom Bai Yun.

    Do you feel that Bai Yun is starting to wean Yun Zi earlier than the others?

  10. kat w says:

    Oh, hello, it’s beautiful Su Lin on Cam 1… eating her boo… it’s good to see you, girl!

  11. Mary Kay says:

    Mother knows best!

  12. Deborah (No. Calif) says:

    Anastasia: Great blog! I guess in this situation, “Mother knows best!!!” And Bai is one terrific mother. Thanks for helping us understand how important Bai Yun’s guidance is in the early development of her offspring.

  13. lu says:

    Bai yun seems to know what she is doing, with the girls she seemed more gentle. With yun zi he’s rough

    and tumble boy. What Iv’e seen she is not real rough, but seems to know what is enough. She is still very

    gentle at certain times. She a very good mom.

    Thank for the update.


  14. Annie Panda says:

    Thanks, Anastasia for the post! Looove that picture of Baby Zhennie and Bai! I do have a question- which of Bai’s cubs was weaned at the youngest age of all five cubs? And what age?
    Anyway- some great photos from Rita on Flickr of other cool animals at the SDZ 🙂 as well as a few perfectly adorable photos of Bai and Yun Zi!
    Peace, Love and Pandas CIAO!
    Annie Panda

    Moderator’s note: Mei Sheng was weaned at 17 months; Hua Mei, Su Lin, and Zhen Zhen at 18 months.

  15. P Wong says:

    Conversation with Gao Gao #83

    Tourist: Hello, Gao Gao.

    Gao Gao: Hello, Mr. Tourist.

    T: Is this another one of your smelly product lists?

    G: Oh, yes, business is booming.

    T: So what’s on your list?

    G: We feature lots of new products in time for Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrations 9/22/2010.

    T: What new products?

    G: With lots of new natural flavors and fragrances to stimulate the imagination.

    T: You’re not referring to mating season supplies, eh?

    G: No, we’re featuring products to enhance family reunion gatherings and dinners.

    (At Mei Sheng’s Family Kitchen facility in Bifengxia)

    Hua Mei: You’ve got aged pine sap oil?

    Mei Sheng: Check.

    H: Wet bamboo mash?

    M: Check.

    H: Recycled grass sod rolls.

    M: Check.

    H: Fermented maple leaves.

    M: Check.

    H: Spent sugar cane chews.

    M: Check.

    H: Sweet potato peels.

    M: Check.

    H: Mushy bananas…

    M: Did the San Diego mud arrive yet?

    H: Tai Shan’s at the airport receiving the freight.

    M: What about the saw dust?

    H: Fu Long’s at the docks to receive that, too.

    (In Bai Yun’s yard)

    Yun Zi: I’m hungry, Mama. Are those leafeater biscuits for me?

    Bai Yun: No, they’re for the Moon Festival reunion celebrations.

    Y: Wow. Is this a black forest molasses cake?

    B: Yes, a surprise gift for Fu Long. We’ll bring mooncakes, too.

    Y: Mmmm. Looks like a nice feast coming up.

    B: Yes, dear. And the World Class Mash Bath Muck Toss Event, too.

    Y: Oooh, can’t wait to roll and slide in it.

    B: Yes, can’t wait to feel the slime ooze between the toes.

    Y: Will we have other treats?

    B: Yes, lots of jujubes, lotus seed, durian and bean paste pastries.

    Y: Mmmm.

    B: You’ll also get to meet the beautiful lonely Lady Chang’e in the moon.

    Y: Will she come down to earth?

    B: No, she stays on the moon, though the moon sits low and gets closer to the earth.

    Y: She’s there all by herself?

    B: Except for banished Wu Gang the woodcutter and Jade Rabbit.

    Y: Will she mud toss, too.

    B: You know, I hadn’t thought of that.

    Y: What if I toss her some mud…

    B: Hmmm. Maybe we should have inter-terrestrial mud toss contests. Sounds like fun.

  16. Chari Mercier says:

    Hi, you all! Haven’t written in a while; been a little bit busy. Just read your article about Bai Yun and her decision making with all of her cubs, including Yuni. Bai is one of the most knowledgeable momma pandas around, and after having 5 cubs over the last few years, she has really developed her way of raising her kids and has been very good with them. If and when she does have cub #6 in the next couple of years, she will do the same decision making process that she know will help her cub grow, develop, and mature into strong, healthy, lively bears. I read in the previous article that Bai has already started a little bit of a weaning process with Yuni already by pushing him away from her when he tries to nurse from her. That’s just one of her decision making process that will help Yuni become more independent over the next several months. Bai is a very smart mom! Lun Lun in Atlanta has pretty much done the same decision making process with both Mei Lan and Xi Lan. She has also gained alot of experience raising both of them to maturity, and I would think that she’s very proud of the great job that she has done! Now, we are still waiting for AZ’s panda keepers to let us know whether Lun will have cub #3 soon! Then, Lun will use that experience and decision making again in raising her 3rd cub.
    Have been missing the Carneys’ comments lately. Haven’t seen anything from them since he wrote that he was about to bring his wife Lynn home about a month ago or so. Hope that someone knows how they are doing now. Been missing his comments about the pandas lately, and I’m praying that Lynn is doing well.
    Today (9/13) is my bday; turned 58 years old today! Just had an easy day doing laundry and looking in on the pandacams and the NZ lion cubs. The lion cubs are 2 weeks old on 9/14, Tuesday, and growing!
    Gonna go for now. Will be back later on!
    Chari Mercier 🙂
    St. Pete, FL

    Moderator’s note: Happy birthday, Chari!

  17. Dianne in Texas says:

    I don’t get the impression that the research team is “eager” for Bai to wean Yun Zi. The point of the article is just that Bai Yun is the boss of the situation. She is the one who knows when to start the weaning process. I think the panda-team at SDZ show ultimate patience in allowing Momma Bai to rear her cubs in her own way. Most animal mothers just do what comes naturally, and Bai Yun’s “naturally” is a most beautiful sight to behold.

    Thanks Anastasia. As always, your reports are most interesting, educational, and to the point.

  18. Susan (UK) says:

    The saying “Mother knows best” comes to mind.

  19. Lucilla in Singapore says:

    A Moon Cake Story

    Zhen Zhen spots her Mama and Su Lin in the kitchen.

    ‘Whasssup?’ she bounces into the kitchen.

    ‘We’re making moon cakes for the 22nd,’ grinned Su Lin who was mixing some crushed bamboo into the lotus seed paste.

    ‘What’s happening on the 22nd, Ma?’ asked ZZ, ‘It isn’t one of our birthdays.’

    ‘It is the Mid-Autumn Festival. That is when the moon is at its brightest. The Chinese used to give these cakes as presents. When China was under the Mongol rule, the hoomans hid messages in the cakes and were able to outwit their enemies and regain control of the country. So to this day, many 100s of years later, the Chinese still exchange gifts of moon cakes. We Pandas have our own moon cakes, of course, ‘ explained Bai Yun as she expertly pressed the paste into the mould and then flip the perfectly round small cakes out for baking.

    ‘Mei Mei, come and help me stir the paste,’ implored Su Lin, ‘ it is tiring work.’

    ‘Why dont we ask the little one? He has oodles of energy!’ asks ZZ.

    ‘We’ll be lucky if he manages to make one. He cant stay still. I sent him to get ore ingredients with Papa,’ grumbled Bai Yun, ‘I hope the two men can come back with what I want and not what they want.’

    ‘Hee Hee, you know Papa will find a reason to et more root boo bear and Yunnie has just discovered boo ice cream,’ smiled Su Lin.

    ‘And our baby brother is getting rounder and rounder!’ observed ZZ, ‘Mama, you are feeding him too well,!’

    ‘Its his genes!’ grinned Bai Yun, ‘he has the genes of two hardy Pandas from China!

    ‘And two of the most loving and lovable Pandas, I might add,’ said Su Lin as she adds a few nuts and orange peel to her mix while ZZ mixed some black bean paste for her Mama.

    ‘We are like the Cow Herd and the Swine Maiden!’ declared Bai Yun.

    ‘STORY TIME!’ yelled the girls with glee for they loved to hear Chinese Fairy Tales.

    ‘Next time OK? Your Papa tells it better than me, any way, pass me the nutmeg please…..’

    The End

  20. Kathy in CT says:

    How are these guys weaned in the wild? Mom just takes off?… Sir Yunny, Great Annoying One, might have a real issue with this in the wilderness?

    Moderator’s note: For great info on this topic, read Weaning Zhen Zhen: And So It Begins.

  21. Sandra says:

    Our beautiful Bai Yun will make the right decisions in regards to her son. I am confident that Yun Zi will be weaned (using the same process as his sisters and brother before) with little or no impact on his life. It’s natural.

    Bai has always been an awesome mom!!!

  22. JJ says:

    Thank you for the information. It’s always so interesting as to when the mother knows when it’s time to ween her baby. I along with others are so fascinated and love these bears. The bond between them is so wonderful to see.

  23. Weegee says:

    Thank you Anastasia, now I learnt a lot of how the Prof. mama panda, Bai Yun treated her cubs.

    It’s a blessing that all animals have their own instinct to do things on their own. Take Lin Hui for example; LH was an orphan cub, neglected by her mom, Tang Tang but LH managed her way to raise up Lin Ping with all her love and care. Now LP is almost 15 mths old and her weight is over 52.6kg. I noticed that LH sometimes refused to let LP nurse. But LP’s a very determined and persistent gigantic cub, at the end LP always got what her wanted.

    LP at this period, has all teeth coming on their way and the muscles that help support the powerful jaws are in developing. She can chew the bigger bamboo part and eat many more bamboo leaves at a time. Her eating manner is now just like the full grown panda does.

    There’re three months left until the weaning. I still have no idea how CMZ keepers will juggle three pandas in order to let them spend their own time outdoor during the winter. In case any of you has a question, CMZ has only one outdoor exhibit for the pandas. This will be quite a challenge and we will see when it is time.

  24. Ruth from Austria says:

    Thank you Anastasia for clarifying this matter. Apart from your experiences with the pandas I guess nature always knows best and Bai Yun will ,for sure know, when it is time to wean Yun Zi. Mind you, once I had a Burmese cat who never weaned her kitten resulting in her “kitten” still nursing, i.e. pretending to nurse, at the age of two. Quite unusual but I read that it might happend where the mother does not want to let go. She even bit her kitten’s whiskers quite short. Nature always surprises us somehow.

  25. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Anastasia: You have one of the best jobs in the world… The other job is being a Panda Keeper… 🙂

  26. Patricia says:

    Thanks for keeping readers informed as what is occurring between Bai Yun and Yun Zi. Does she nurse him the same number times each day when she refuses to nurse him and she redirects him? If the answer is no, I would think she has already started the process of weaning him gradually.

    What are her other behaviors you will notice from Bai Yun though the weaning process of Yun Zi? I don’t know if you will answer me personally, but maybe the questions can be discussed in a future blog.

    Thanks again for keeping us informed. The topics are always interesting to follow in the blogs. All the informatiion you share shows how much you keep in tune with the Pandas and with your readers.

  27. Danielle, NY says:

    On one of the German panda websites I found a video which must have been taken from a monitor inside the Vienna Zoo, I found it also on YouTube. You can see Yang Yang and her cub and at the end of the video you can hear the “Kaiserglöckerl” (Emperor’s bell) announcing the closing of the zoo.

    Panda cub & “Kaiserglöckerl”, Zoo Vienna

    You can read the legend under the video, both in English and German.

    In the meantime, daddy Long Hui is just doing fine…

    Giant panda Long Hui, Zoo Vienna

  28. Fonsia says:

    Weegee #23 made an interesting comment that raised a question for me. She said that Lin Hui in Thailand had not been raised by her mother: yet she’s doing a fine job with her own cub.

    It made me wonder if Bai Yun was taken from her mother at a young age, as is now the practice in China. As Bai was the first cub born at Wolong, I thought she might have been kept with her mother. If so, perhaps that accounts for Bai’s exceptional mothering skills. But if she was taken from her mom and hand-raised, then her skill would appear to be instinct.

    Moderator, do you know if Bai Yun’s mother was allowed to raise her, or was she taken and raised by her keepers? Thanks!

    Moderator’s note: Bai Yun stayed with her mother until she was seven months old.

  29. cindy in kc says:

    what a good mama bear! she looks really furry and soft now– I just want to touch her and all her wrinkles! 🙂

  30. Frances in NYC says:

    Thanks, P Wong and Lucilla for different views of the preparations for the Moon Festival!

    There were times when I noticed Bai pushing Miss ZZ away too, or making her work really hard to nurse–pre-weaning, if you will. Still a ways to go before the real thing, though.

    Interesting that Bai Yun was only with her mother for seven months–those are some powerful panda mothering instincts that she has been exhibiting! It actually gives hope for all the cubs in China who have been put in the “kindergartens” (“pandababygartens?” that they, too, will draw on their instincts in bearing and raising their cubs when some are put into the semi-wild.

  31. GRAMMMIE says:

    P. WONG IT IS GREAT TO SEE HAD ANOTHER CONVERSATION with the Gao/Bai Clan. And our lovely LUCILLA how we miss you if we don’t get 3 or 4 new stories a day. I love reading everybody’s posts but must admit I just love all of the stories and conversations the best. Love Grammmie

  32. GRAMMMIE says:

    # 27 DANIELLE,NY Thanks for the links, the clips were nice and clear.

    #28 FONSIA great observation. Gao was raised by keepers from age unkown, but really both of them performed exactly as they should. There seems to be a whole lot of instinct taking over and making everything right. Maybe a bit of fairy dust got mixed in with the magic.

  33. Danielle, NY says:

    #28 Fonsia – The story of Lun Lun is very similar, she was separated from her mother when she was four month old, if my memory is correct. And as Bai Yun, Lun Lun turned out to be a wonderful mother to her two cubs. It is comforting to know that those female pandas can still develop these mothering skills even though they did not, as cubs, experienced it themselves. But we must wonder if the separation of the cubs from their mothers at such a young age can be done for several generations without the females loosing those skills for good.

  34. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Danielle: Thanks for the videos from today and yesterday with the barrel enrichment toy. It always astounds me how the females pick up their cubs very gently in their very powerful jaws. Yang Yang is a very good mother… The video of Mei Lan and her barrel was too cute. I thought Xi Lan was a very onery boy but he must have learned from his sister… 🙂

    Weegee: I did not know that LH was orphaned… Was she a twin and her mother rejected her? Poor LH.. I’ve seen LP nursing and it’s almost hard to tell who is who!! I noticed that it’s taking 2 keepers to carry her out to get weighed now… They’ll need a bigger basket before long.

    Moderator: Please forward to the enrichment team a request to get a barrel cut lengthwise for Yunnie and Zhennie like the AZ have for their Pandas… 🙂

    Moderator’s note: Will do!

  35. Dee in Dallas says:

    I found this video of Mei Sheng from 3 years ago – “King of the Trees”. He climbs really high, but what really interested me is that someone, the narrator or keeper, calls him to come down and he does.

  36. kat w says:

    What was little guy rolling around in? Looked like catnip, or pandanip, cuz he sure looked like he was in Pig Heaven, soooo cute! That’s a great idea, when momma wants a moment alone with her boo! Everybody’s a happy camper! OOps, he left to go and get him some of momma’s boo….

  37. Shirley says:

    How cute! I’ve just been watching Yun Zi climbing on Bai Yun, and she was so patient with him.

    Here’s a question I’ve never seen asked in the blog: Do Mama Bai and Yun Zi “talk” to each other? Little sounds? What a treat it would be to get to hear them if they do.

    Moderator’s note: We really haven’t heard a lot of vocalization from Yun Zi during playtime with Mom. Bai Yun really only calls to the cub when she’s trying to get his attention, and she’ll call to him by making a bleat that’s deeper than her normal bleat. For info on panda vocalizations, read Say What?

  38. Danielle, NY says:

    I just checked on Lun Lun and Bing Bing to make sure that I got my information correct, and I was really surprised by what I found. You may recall that I mentioned in the previous blog

    entry #29, that the oldest female panda to give birth to a cub at the age of 21 was named “Ice”. Well, I just discovered that it was actually Lun Lun’s mother, Bing Bing who is holding that record!! The cub was born on June 30, 2007. “Panda gives rare birth at age of 21” www(dot)chinadaily(dot)com(dot)cn/china/2007-06/30/content_907045.htm

    After further research I found out that the cub is a female called Xiang Bing still living in Chengdu.

    I also discovered that the daddy of the twins born recently in Madrid is Bing Bing’s son. He is Lun Lun’s half brother; they don’t have the same father.

  39. Danielle, NY says:

    #34 Dianna from Ohio and #23 Weegee – It is correct, Lin Hui has a twin brother Lin Yang, so that might explain why Lin Hui was abandoned by her mother Tang Tang. I am not sure when the Chinese started their twins swapping system, rotating the cubs in their mother’s care. It could also be that their mother Tang Tang neglected both cubs…

  40. Rebeca Rambal says:

    I was wondering if there are any plans to open the gate where the Pandas can see each other for a few minutes…(I know it has a nickname but it escapes me). I would love to see the reaction that Yun Zi would have if he saw ZZ…. or Su Lin.

    Moderator’s note: There are no plans to open the howdy gate for Yun Zi and Su Lin.

  41. Telly26 says:

    Thanks for this information. It’ll be fun to watch and see as well as compare mom with male vs. female cubs??

    I haven’t checked the other blogs where I asked, but I DO wonder…if Bai Yun will know, sense, when the girls are gone? Will Yun Zi sense it as well? It’ll be interesting to watch. Moms have this special something no matter what I think. : )

  42. Jeslyn says:

    Since we keep the mother and child together for such a long time, which is good for the cub training, I wonder what affects taking a cub at young age from a mother does to their psyche? Both mother and cub.

    Seems they do that a lot in China.

  43. kat w says:

    Moderator TO #37-Shirley’s comments-EVERYONE should check out “Say What?” that you have recommended if they want to get a great explanation of panda language, vocal and body. Very, very interesting info! Thank you so much, Moderator and Suzanne for this wonderful, interesting info from all your studies.

    Please check it out, everyone! An added bonus was, and I can’t believe there were only 15 responses, was reading the comments from bloggers back in March 2006 when Su Lin was still nursing!

    There weren’t any answers or Moderator’s notes to 3 bloggers, that would really be helpful and reassuring to have answers to, here were their questions: (plus, it would be interested to know if they still panda blog!)

    Olwen: With there not being many pandas in the wild, is this why they are solitary? Cathy G.: Are they solitary because there’s not a lot of boo, they need a lot, so is this why they are territorial? Would they be more social if there was an abundance of boo? Jeannie: Will the cubs that grow up together in China seek out other pandas in the wild because they are used to that environment? Are cubs separated at an early age so they won’t be familiar with socializing?

    I know these are a lot of questions (5), but it would be part of our panda education (well, mine anyway!) to hear the answers to these questions from 2006!

    Thanks again!

  44. GRAMMMIE says:

    #38 DANIELLE Thank you for the links included with your comments…they were informative. It is so nice to be able to go right to the document, photo, story or video. It is too bad that Yun Zi doesn’t get to meet a sibling before it is too late to make the arrangement—I was goinfg through some older photos of Mei Sheng, Hau Mei, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen at the howdy gate with a sibling. There could be links to post but these were found on a wild duck wander through memory lane, I would not know where to start. They were shown greeting siblings. On the other hand, it seems that our litle Yun Zi is destine to be a famous composer, dress dresigner, singer, dancer, and Pandabassador for saving the natural resources of the world, not only on behalf of the Panda but of “Hoomans” too. He may not know them but they will know him. And then there is the Mid-Autumn Festival……………………..

  45. Mary in Brooklyn says:

    With some luck, I’ll be landing in Beijing on the 22nd just in time to get in on the mid-autumn festival. The preparations by the pandas are certainly in full swing. Hope they have a wonderful reunion wherever they decide to have it in SD and/or BFX.

    Just got back from Maine and realize I’m tired out from driving, so good night pandas, keepers and fellow panda nuts wherever you are.

  46. Weegee says:

    #39 Danielle, NY – Tang Tang chose to take care of LH’s twin bro., Lin Yang. From what I heard (any of you who knows better please jump in and correct me if I’m wrong) LH was separated from her mom since she was born, that meant the swapping system had not been used at the time. As I mentioned before somewhere in the older blog, LH’s born unhealthy, she had suffered from her dysfunctional digestive and excretory system. I read from somewhere that mama animals spontaneously know to keep their stronger baby. Perhaps, it was a reason why Tang Tang picked Lin Yang over Lin Hui.

  47. Lilarose in Bandon, OR says:

    It has probably been explained in past posts, but what is the reason the Chinese separate giant panda cubs from their mothers so young? And as someone else asked in this blog, over time–generations–could the instinct to “parent” diminish? Do the mother fret when their cubs are removed from them? Do the cubs show any stress when separated from their mothers? Can the cubs receive a proper substitute for mother’s milk? Is it natural for giant panda cubs to mingle and live and play together when these animals are mainly solitary in the wild? How would this affect the mingled cubs if and when they are returned to their natural environment? Would they tend to try to return to “civilization” over time?

  48. Weegee says:

    Dianna, Ohio – Spiky hair keeper (Ple) said that he’s so proud of himself that he finally succeeded training LP. He was amazed that LP was well behave and followed his every commands. ( only one mistake as you had seen. ) The big guy (Ae) was the one who shared the funny story of CC and LH (many of them, posted here were from his wonderful experiences.)

  49. AuntiJackie says:

    Very interesting info … Supermom Bai Yun stayed with her mom for just seven months.

    If you missed the link that our moderator posted about the weaning process for Zhen Zhen, here it is again>>>

    Thanks dear moderator, for directing us to this and other old blog topics….what an education we are all receiving!!

    Moderator’s note: You’re welcome. Our blog archive holds a wealth of information, and it’s fun to read what was happening “back then”!

  50. Danielle, NY says:

    Don’t miss yesterday’s videos posted by DoxieMom on Flickr

    The third video is actually the event which happened first: “9-14-2010 Mommie Stole My Boo! Aww. poor widdle guy :)”

    Yun Zi then took his revenge: “9-14-2010 Yun Zi: Mommie’s Boy Such a cute little “pest” :)”

    Then he found a way to have fun by himself!! “9-14-2010 Yun Zi Anoints Himself! Not sure what he was rolling around in, but he was having a great time :)” Not sure if Bai Yun did give him a wash after that, he nearly looks like a brown bear, but such a cute one!!

  51. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Panda Team: I’m still pondering about training Bai Yun to urinate on command. I’m thinking you use a verbal command versus a hand signal? And I’m assuming you do this when she is in her crate and using some type of collection cup? Has this behavior been taught to other animals in the zoo, i.e. the ellies?

    Thank you!

  52. Danielle, NY says:

    It is probably a coincidence, unless the keepers at the Vienna Zoo are reading this blog, and saw the advice from our very helpful moderator to read the blog Say What? , but today’s update is on vocal communication. www(dot)zoovienna(dot)at/news/neuigkeiten-rund-um-das-pandajunge/
    “As part of the research project “vocal communication by Giant Panda” at the Schönbrunn’s Zoo, the focus is placed on the sounds of the cups, and on the mother-young communication. Giant pandas are solitary and usually vocalize only during the mating, and very intensively during the first weeks of life. The screeching sounds consistently made the cubs, which at birth are only about 10 cm long (four inches), to draw attention, to signal that they are hungry, or that they are cold. The sounds are very variable, to avoid that the mother would get used to it, and maybe at some point no longer responding. Within a few weeks, the sounds become more discrete, and the repertoire can be better divided into different call types with different meanings. The results will be published soon in a scientific study.”

    The fact that a new born cub is very vocal has always puzzled me. I understand the need of the cub to let mum know that he/she needs attention, but since they are basically living on their mother, I would think that the cub would know that mommy is very close by and that there is no need to make so much noise. Isn’t there a risk of attracting predators? Or since the mother is there, there is no risk. I remember watching videos made by a Chinese panda researcher a long time ago, in which he explained that once the cubs were old enough for the mother to leave them alone in the den, she would go away to eat, sometimes for long periods of time, and while mum was gone the cub would hardly make any noise. I wonder if more is known about that now that the research has been more extensive.

    Moderator’s note: Perhaps the newborn is so vocal because it needs to let Mom know where it is in the dark den?

  53. Deborah M. Brewer says:

    Thanks for another great update! Bai Yun is a great panda mom!!

  54. Danielle, NY says:

    I came across a video about the twins born in Madrid posted yesterday on YouTube, but my Spanish is not good enough to understand all what is said. If someone can let us know if there is new info, it would be much appreciated.

    Las estrellas del Zoo de Madrid | RTVE

    #46 Weegee – Thanks for the info about Lin Hui and her difficult beginning in life. It is amazing how much the vets and keepers can do to help those unhealthy cubs go over their challenging starts in life and help them to develop into healthy pandas. But that might explain why there were so many checkups on Lin Ping when she was little as some times those kinds of problems are genetic. However, from what I have been reading and seeing on videos, it seems that the mothers are taking the first born and they wouldn’t have time to figure out if one of their cubs had the kind of health problem that Lin Hui had. It might just be a coincidence that Lin Yang, the healthy male, was born before Lin Hui, the health challenged female, since from what I could figure out from their stud numbers, Lin Yang was the first born.

    I wonder if someone from the panda team wants to add to this discussion.

  55. Panda Team says:

    #51 Dianna from Ohio
    We use a combination of a verbal command and hand cue. We have found that in the mornings, Bai likes to urinate in a special corner of her transfer tunnel. We captured this behavior using a clicker and food reward (apples) to follow. Each time, right before she urinated, we said, “go potty” and showed her the syringe we use to collect the sample. When she did this behavior we would instantly use the clicker as a sound cue that she did the behavior correctly and a food reward will follow. Since Bai has had a number of years of operant conditioning training, adding another behavior was very easy for her. This behavior training has been taught to other animals in the Zoo.

  56. Marie says:

    I read Say What a while back. It is definitely interesting. I love hearing a panda “squeak.” It’s adorable! Also in the video that # 35 Dee posted, you can hear Mei Sheng make sounds when he is called down.

    I was reading about the ellies at the zoo yesterday and played a clip of an elephant sound. I didn’t realize my volume was set at max and I scared my poor cat half to death! She flew off my lap, hair standing on end, eyes bulging. LOL!

  57. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Danielle #54 – I watched the video… what were they doing to the Panda? Did they have to manipulate the 2nd panda out? I didn’t see her give birth to a 2nd panda cub…

  58. Danielle, NY says:

    #57 Dianna from Ohio – I suspect that part of the video was taken during the artificial insemination, but as I said, the little Spanish that I know is not sufficient to understand all of what is said. The second cub was “launched” quite naturally while Hua Zui Ba was holding her first born. You can see all the recent videos of the pandas from the Madrid Zoo on their blog www(dot)zoomadrid(dot)com/blog/

  59. Virginia Spiegler says:

    As usual, we have behavioural info from every corner! What a fantastic amount is shared! And as usual, how do we thank you? To know all of this makes us better prepared when we have to let go of our little ones. But tears will still be shed, and mommie bears will still wow us with their loving ways. Will Bai Yun stay at SDZ even if she does not have any more cubs? Do boy cubs need their mothers longer than girls? Somehow, I think they do. The girls seem to be much more ready for all stages than boys. Yun Zi, our dearest one, still gives his mama lovings even while he pesters her. Our blue eyed cubbie!

  60. Virginia Spiegler says:

    READ “SAY WHAT!” I remember a video of Zhennie when she was a few months old and got her first injection. She carried on while returning to the den. Three barks then and even one after the injection! Three slightly different barks.

    Lin Ping got caught in a chair and screamed! And the keepers gave instructions to her mother until she was either gotten out or gotten out by her mother.

    That is vocalizing at the finest! You can catch Bai vocalizing to Yuni by watching her mouth at times. Bleats? Commands or speaking, the point gets across to the little one. At times, when younger, it meant, “stay put until I tell you you can go!” Obvious and respected by Yuni. Watch the videos. Wading in the pool until he was allowed to leave is one example. (Smelly bear?)

  61. Peggy says:

    I wondered too if Bai was starting the weaning earlier but as noted Bai knows what she is doing and yet she is a mother. Sometimes if they want any peace they have to do a bit of pushing away so obviously for Bai that means if Yunior interrupts her eating or tries to when she isn’t really in the mood for nursing she simply pushes him off. I’m sure he knows that eventually he is going to get to nurse. She watches him and decides when he is ready for various things as the keepers say and that means in general that she decides when weaning starts right? Why force it right? That is one of the things that makes me appreciate the keepers even more because our pandas are raised by their mother. They aren’t removed from her at a young age. We have learned a great deal about panda life simply because we allow Bai to do what she is supposed to do.

    I know the Chinese have reasons for focusing more on having as many cubs as possible and their work is amazing but I still believe that doing it the way we do is the right way and the best for raising cubs. It is a very slow process of course and that is the whole problem for the Chinese.

  62. kat Wilson says:

    #47, Lilarose….I guess we ask too many questions! But I think the answers to our questions would be most interesting….

    hint, hint, Panda Team or Moderator…..???

    Thank you in advance!


    Panda Team responds: The Chinese remove the cubs from their mothers so young in order to induce the mother to have an estrus the next spring. This generally results in more cubs born per year. We have no way to know at this point if it impacts parental instinct, at least not scientifically, but I would guess not. Do the mothers fret? Yes. Do the cubs show stress? Yes. But they both do to some degree when they are weaned at the species typical age as well. Can the cubs get a good milk substitute? There is no perfect sub for mother’s milk, but the formula combination we helped developed is vastly improved over what was being used 10 years ago, and cubs are healthier as a result.

  63. Dawn from MA says:

    Great info. Bai Yun is an awesome Mom!

  64. Anne in NYC says:

    Mary #45 – Have a safe and wonderful trip to China. I envy you and expect a full account of your travels and pictures, too! Bon voyage.

  65. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Mary #45 – Have fun!! Take lots of pictures!! We want to hear lots of stories!

    There was someone else going too but I can’t remember who…

  66. Kristi in Austin, TX says:

    CONGRATULATIONS, BAI YUN! Your very own Hua Mei gave you an 8th grandcubbie yesterday at Bifengxia! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH BAI YUN! You are are very special “Hero Mother”! I’ll keep you posted on Sheng’s cubs too when I get the details. ***hugs***

  67. Heather says:

    Bai Yun will go down in history as being the front runner of cub rearing in captivity.
    She is such a beautiful special Panda, she is loved more than she will ever know, and I wish her health and happiness and a wealth of enrichment toys and good bamboo for all her days 🙂

  68. Farina says:

    OMG! Pandas are so adorable! Bai Yun is a great mom! She does such a good job with the cubs!