Tuesday, November 9, was “crane day” at the Giant Panda Research Station. No, not the feathered kind; they’re all waiting in the wings, so to speak, for our four-day Festival of Flight, November 11 to 14. Instead, it was heavy equipment day, starting in the wee hours of the morning. A large crane was moved into position in the panda canyon to do the heavy lifting for the panda exhibit renovation before the Zoo opened, and heavy lifting it was.
By 9 a.m. new elm trees had been positioned and planted in each enclosure, some trunk material (called “zoo furniture” here) had been removed or repositioned, and new “furniture” placed. The crane was gone, but there was still a buzz of activity as arborists, gardeners, and construction workers from the Zoo’s staff all worked together to secure and stabilize the new climbing structures. There’s still much work to be done, but the bones are in, and it’s going to be very exciting for our pandas!
Old familiar napping spots have been transformed into way stations, leading up to new and exciting places to perch or nap. Trees have been pruned to add more light to the areas, while the young elms will provide different shady corners. The climbing structures have been expanded and conjoined so that they stretch almost across each exhibit. It will be at least another week before the bears can return, but by then between the new soil, plant material, paint, workers, and hardware, it will not only be physical enrichment for the pandas but an olfactory one as well. It’s going to be quite the treat for them and their visitors as they explore this wonderful new environment.
On behalf of the pandas and the Panda Team, I’d like to thank all of you who donated through our Wish Lish toward the rental of the crane. It is much appreciated!
Ellie Rosenbaum is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Sprucing Up for the Holidays.
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