|Learn about giant pandas|
|Meet the pandas|
|Panda cubs photo & video|
|Panda cub updates|
|Subscribe to get panda cub news with Cub Confidential|
Help support the twin panda cubs and their counterparts in the wild.
|Thanks to a generous gift from EarthCam, fans all over the world can continue to enjoy watching Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas. PandaCam will be running 24 hours a day.|
Why is it dark in here? The members of our giant panda team are the minds behind the movement of the cam during the day, but they usually leave the Zoo by about 5:30 p.m EST. Lights are dimmed in the building at night after everyone goes to bed, and the cam view remains stationary. If Mei Lun and Mei Huan are up playing, you may see them if they wander into view. Otherwise, check back in the morning!
Keeper I, Mammals
Thursday, February 20
I can't believe how much those little gals have grown. I guess that is what they do: grow up so fast. It’s the same with the lion cubs. They are so big and are running around, playing, stalking, and chasing after Mom and each other. It’s funny how they are so different from the panda cubs. Our gals prefer to chill on top of the structures in the dayrooms, relax, occasionally play with each other, or climb on anything and everything. Lun Lun doesn't have to move far to watch them. It’s not the same for our lioness, Kiki. She is constantly running around watching and playing with her cubs. The moment she gets a break, the cubs attack her and tug on her ears and tail. It's interesting how different parenting is for these moms. Props to both of them!
Mammal Keeper I
Monday, February 17
We celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday the 15th here at the Zoo. Many of the animals received special holiday-themed enrichment, including, of course, the pandas. The three older ones, Yang Yang, Xi Lan and Po, each received themed boxes, heart-shaped papier mache, and themed paper link chains. The boxes and papier mache, of course, had treats hidden inside. Each panda had his or her own way of getting to the treats. Yang ripped his open, but in such a way that he could essentially use it as a plate to hold his treats. Xi Lan opened the box just enough to shove his whole head in to retrieve the goodies. Po, who was in a particularly playful mood, decided that the box and the paper chains needed to be ripped to shreds!
Wednesday, February 12
It was a quiet day at the Zoo yesterday. We are closed again due to this crazy weather, but the bears don’t seem to notice. They are all tucked inside, not due to the cold, but to the rainy weather. They do not care for the rain. We did put the cubs in a new place yesterday: Den 4. It is a long way to shift them from their normal areas, but eventually they made it. Of course they had to climb on everything new they came in contact with on their way. Mei Lun almost didn’t leave her den. She was having too much fun climbing and swinging on a piece of bamboo that was wedged in an angle. Climbing seems to be the exciting thing these days. They can’t get enough of it.
Mammal Keeper III
Tuesday, February 11
We regularly receive messages in which people express their concern about Lun Lun sometimes being rough with her cubs. For my study of giant panda maternal behavior, I have spent hundreds of hours observing mothers with their cubs. They are all amazingly gentle with their newborn cubs and gradually become rougher as the cubs grow bigger and stronger. Lun Lun is a normal giant panda mom, and her behavior is appropriate for the age of her cubs. Giant pandas are bears, and bears are very tough animals. Behavior that looks rough and potentially painful to us, is playful and harmless to them. The twins are very strong now and have very thick coats. They play roughly with each other and with their mother. This is normal and developmentally appropriate for them.
Monday, February 10
It's been awhile since I've worked with the pandas, and things have definitely changed over the last couple of months. Since I previously spent most of my time with Lun Lun and the cubs, I am enjoying getting to know our other pandas better. They all have very different personalities as well as likes and dislikes. I recently learned that Yang Yang enjoys large pieces of produce. We usually cut the pandas' fruit and veggies into bite-sized chunks, which makes it easier to provide reinforcement for training or enrichment. But large pieces, and even whole produce, are favorite enrichment items for him. How do we know? He makes this incredibly cute, very soft vocalization that the keepers have dubbed "The Happy Panda Noise."
Keeper I, Mammals
Friday, February 7
Since the twins are getting better and better at "shifting" (moving from one location to another, via an animal door keepers open), we've been putting the little family group in Dayroom 2 more. This is the other dayroom that does not contain the infamous hammock. Instead it contains a “teepee” structure that the girls love to climb. Because the optimal place to snooze is at the top of the structure, which is above our heads, it can be a challenge to remove the twins unless they come down on their own. So, now that the girls are pretty good about coming when we call, we've started using this exhibit more often. The other advantage is that it allows the other pandas access to the dayroom with the hammock. A third advantage? It gives the keepers more options when playing "musical pandas" in the morning when we're trying to shuffle everyone to his or her end destination!
Tuesday, February 4
Cubs playing and climbing never gets old. Many times the cubs are asleep at the top of their climbing structure on exhibit, but if you are lucky, you can be here when they are climbing and playing. Yesterday, when we shifted them out, a fellow keeper had leaned bamboo against the log they use to get on top of their climbing structure. Mei Lun usually races to get on top of the structure as soon as we let her out. It was fun watching her with this new challenge of having bamboo in her way. She weaved her body through it, sometimes sliding down the log with the bamboo, but not giving up. Eventually she made it through the bamboo maze, and the rest was easy as she found her favorite spot and went to sleep. Mei Huan will sometimes investigate the habitat before deciding to follow her sister up the climbing structure. Yesterday was one of those days. We turned one of their big plastic toys upside down so it would rock back and forth. She spent a good 10 minutes playing on it, trying to climb on top as it weebled back and forth. She would make it most of the way on, and it would start to flip toward her till she was standing back on the ground. She would then try climbing the other side. Occasionally she would stop and start chewing on it. Eventually she made it all the way on top without it tipping. She probably held on for only a few seconds that way before she moved and the whole thing tipped over again, sliding her body off. After she made it all the way on, I think her accomplishment was over for the day because she left to go join her sister on the climbing structure. Of course there was still bamboo in the way, but Mei Lun knocked it down enough that climbing through it looked easier for Mei Huan than it had been for Mei Lun. Once at the top, she joined her sister for a nap.
Mammal Keeper III
Monday, February 3
I'm often asked what's the hardest part of my job as a panda keeper. Right away I always answer: "Knowing what type and how much bamboo to offer the pandas." Cleaning is pretty easy, albeit tedious. Offering the correct species of bamboo and the correct amount is the challenging part. When we’re cleaning up after the pandas, you may notice that we inspect the bamboo. We're looking to see not only what species they preferred (we almost always offer at least two different species), but also which specific bamboo pieces of that species they ate. It's up to us, as their caretakers, to figure it out. There's mature bamboo vs. young bamboo (young bamboo usually has a white circle around the node of the stalk, aka culm); thin vs. thick culms; light-colored culm vs. the darker pieces; smaller leaves vs. larger leaves; lighter leaves vs. darker leaves; etc. Our pandas always love the "tops,” which are the pieces of bamboo that come from the very top of a bamboo tree. If they reject that piece, we know we're in for a tough day in terms of pleasing the bears.
Xi Lan enjoying the snow! Photo by Keeper I, Carnivores, Jen W.
Thursday, January 30
As many of you have heard, we have had quite the snowstorm that came through the past two days. Although it has been tough out there on the roads, it was quite the winter wonderland scene here at the Zoo. The first day it snowed, the keepers decided to let some of our animals experience the snow. For the younger pandas, it was their first time to see snow. The twins had a lot of fun playing in the snow that we brought into the building for them. They were eating the snow and shoving each other’s faces in it. It was quite hilarious. We also let Xi Lan and Yang Yang outside in the habitats to experience the snow. Today they just sat and ate their bamboo like they normally do. Then it was Po’s turn. At first she was hesistant, but then she started rolling around in the snow. It was very funny to watch.
Wednesday, January 29
As many of you probably heard, Atlanta received some snow yesterday. While the snow and ice are making life a real headache for the people here in Atlanta, it is absolutely heaven for the giant panda population. We have had the bears outside in the yards since the snow started to fall. We started out yesterday morning with Yang Yang and Xi Lan outside. As the snow started falling, they both were enjoying their bamboo and were acted as nothing was happening. As the snow started to accumulate, they became more excited and began playing, which consisted of rolling, self anointing, and a bunch of running. They also spent a lot of time at the howdy window as well, interacting with each other, until the urge to run wild hit them again, and they were off only to return to the window shortly afterwards. Po got her chance to see snow for the first time later in the afternoon. Upon going out, she was rather hesitant, and tested the ground with great care. After about five minutes, she was in absolutely out of her mind. I have not seen her play so hard in quite a long time. She covered herself in white powder from head to toe, and couldn't get enough of it. As the saying goes though, all good things must come to an end, and we needed to bring the pandas in for the night, thus ending their play day. No worries though, they started right back up when the keepers arrived and put them outside this morning at 8 a.m. On a side note, although the cubs cannot go outside as of yet, this morning we were able to fill a barrel full of snow and give it to them. Much like Po, they had to inspect it for a while, but after a few minutes, they were all in. They are having a great time playing, digging, chewing, and wrestling. I am watching them as I write this and they have been at it for over 45 minutes now with no end in sight.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores
Monday, January 27
As a panda keeper, it is safe to say that bamboo rules my life. We offer our pandas about 400 pounds of bamboo in a 24-hour period! They eat about a third of what we offer, but we give them so much more so they can choose among the pieces we offer them -- some peices/bundles are pleasing to the pandas and some are not. If we have a good harvest of bamboo, the pandas are happy and the day goes much smoother. If the pandas do not like the bamboo, they are unhappy and we cannot do much except offer extra biscuit feedings or other enrichment to keep them content until we get the next harvest in. Our bamboo cutters work really hard to find and harvest the bamboos that the pandas eat best. Unfortunately, sometimes things out of our control (and our realm of knowledge) affect the bamboo, like weather conditions, soil conditions, etc., and the pandas do not want to eat what we have on offer.
Carnivore Keeper III
Thursday, January 23
Normally, Lun Lun is cool, calm and collected. She takes motherhood and pretty much everything else in stride. There are a few exceptions to this. For example, she does not like certain noises, including the sounds made by a hand drill and a ratchet. The keepers sometimes use these tools to build or hang enrichment items. Today was one of those days. The keepers are well aware of Lun Lun’s dislike of these sounds. So, they were working on the enrichment item far from Lun Lun’s den area, which is normally okay. That wasn’t far enough away for Lun Lun today. She still heard the noise and let us know she didn’t like it by snorting and honking repetitively. The best way to deal with this situation is to stop the noise and give Lun Lun time to relax. The keepers did that, but it took Lun Lun about 30 minutes to calm down The twins sat behind the scale and were watchful of their mother for about 15 minutes during this. Then sleepiness overcame them and they had a nap. Eventually, Lun Lun settled down and had a big meal of bamboo and biscuits, and then a nap.
Rebecca Snyder, PhD
Curator of Mammals
Wednesday, January 22
A quick update on some non-panda cubs! Monday was an exciting day around Zoo Atlanta. It was such a nice and warm day that the lion cubs went on exhibit for the first time. They were out for less than an hour before mom had enough and corralled them back inside, but nonetheless, it was an exciting afternoon for all. I worked in carnivores earlier this week. A fellow keeper and I got weights on all the lion cubs, and they ranged from 9 kilograms to 10 kilograms.
Tuesday, January 21
It’s performance appraisal time here at Zoo Atlanta. We’re busy completing our self-evaluations and taking some time to brag about our accomplishments for the year. It’s a busy time for us, but the giant pandas don’t seem to notice. What if we evaluated their performance in 2013?
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Thursday, January 16
The other morning, Xi Lan decided to sleep late. This is normally never an issue, and we let the pandas sleep as long as they need. This day, however, Xi Lan was fast asleep in the dayroom where Lun Lun and the cubs spend their days on exhibit. Without any hope of waking up Xi Lan, the decision was made to try Lun Lun and the cubs in the other dayroom. We were curious if they would be able to use the climbing structure of if they would be forced to spend their day being terrestrial. We were betting that they would try and try to get up in the structure, but they probably would not be able to achieve the summit. Much to our surprise, both Mei Lun and Mei Huan immediately went to the structure and started to climb. Within five minutes, both of them were in the top of the structure checking everything out and even doing a little wrestling with each other. The excitement only lasted about another 20 minutes though, as they both curled up together in the crook in the top of the structure and dozed the rest of the morning away.
Lead Keeper of Carnivores
Monday, January 13
Guess what the cubs discovered recently? That's right, biscuits! While their teeth are still quite small and their jaws aren't strong enough to chew the biscuits yet, they still manage pretty well gumming them and softening the biscuits with their saliva. It takes them a good five to 10 minutes at least just to be able to soften the biscuits enough to begin eat them. And that's just with half biscuits. This is a good way to keep them still for a minute when they need to be weighed, which is a really hard thing to do at that age. Playtime is all the time and everything is a play toy, including the bin that we place them in when weighing them. Speaking of weights, they have both officially broken the 9 kilogram mark!
Keeper I, Carnivores
Thursday, January 9
Starting a couple of weeks ago, we started leaving the "howdy" door open between the two outdoor exhibits. The "howdy" is actually two doors. One part is a solid piece, and the other is a steel mesh door. When the solid part is raised, the mesh door allows the pandas in each outdoor yard to see and smell each other without allowing them to be in the same habitat. We use this door mostly during introductions between Lun Lun and Yang Yang during breeding season or to introduce cubs to the other pandas. With the solid door open now, we normally see one panda looking through the door at the other panda, but don't normally see too much interaction between the pandas. On Wednesday, however, there was some real action at the door.
Wednesday, January 8
We don’t observe many instances of protective behavior by Lun Lun, because she and her cubs live in a safe environment. But occasionally Lun Lun has to come to the rescue of one of her cubs. For example, Po fell in the pool once and Lun Lun rushed over to check on her and make sure she got out. Po was nearly 2 years old at the time and fully capable of climbing out of the pool on her own. But I guess because Po fell it triggered a protective reaction from Lun Lun.
Tuesday, January 7
Brrr! It’s been frigid in Atlanta these past few days! Practically all of the animals at Zoo Atlanta got to spend their days inside their holding areas where it was toasty warm (jealous!). Our pandas, however, are built for this kind of weather, so they’ve been getting to go outside for parts of the day to enjoy the crisp weather. Their thick fur helps to keep them nice and warm. In case you're wondering, Lun Lun and the twins did not go outside, as the cubs are still a little too young, and it would be pretty cold for them. Even though our adult pandas are built for this weather, I think they’d be just as happy inside where their environment is a little more climate-controlled (can we say spoiled?). Hope everyone is staying warm! I’ve got more layers on than I can count!
Keeper I, Carnivores
Monday, January 6
Mei Huan has finally discovered her sister’s hiding spot. On Sunday, we were getting ready to give Lun Lun fresh bamboo and the twins their “lunchtime” formula bottle and found Mei Huan had climbed to the top of the structure and was wrestling with her sister in the little branchy nook the cubs always like to wedge themselves into. This is the first time we’ve seen Mei Huan climb that high into the structure. If you remember, Mei Lun had conquered the structure weeks ago, so we’re quite happy to see Mei Huan follow suit! When we were getting ready to feed the twins their formula that day, we called the girls inside from the shift door (after having already brought Lun inside). Shifting inside from a fun place like the dayrooms has always been a challenge for all of the cubs, and it’s understandable! The structures are a great jungle gym! Because of this, we’re starting to teach the girls that coming inside can be just as rewarding, because we can’t always rely on Lun Lun to wrangle both of them into following her.
Friday, January 3
As Rebecca reported yesterday, it wasn’t an ideal day to be a giant panda or a giant panda keeper, due to the rain. Today, however, is a lot better, at least for the pandas. Obviously they’re well-suited for the cooler weather and the fact that it’s dry (more like, frozen) is a bonus for them. When we have weather like this, we have plenty of outdoor space for the giant pandas to enjoy, which makes it easier for the keepers to shift Lun Lun and the cubs into one of the dayrooms. The keepers, however, are likely not thrilled with this drastic change in temperature. When the pandas go outside, it means that the keepers go outside as well. The habitats needs to be checked before we give the pandas access to them and of course, they need to be provided with their bamboo. The giant panda building isn’t all that warm, but it probably feels great compared to what it’s like outside today!
Megan Wilson, PhD
Assistant Curator of Mammals
Thursday, January 2
Yesterday's shifting lesson for the cubs was a bit of a disaster! For three days in a row, both cubs shifted out into the dayroom with their mother very well! Then it all started to fall apart. As Mollye has mentioned, if the cubs are sleepy, it is more difficult for Lun Lun to get them to follow her, so we cannot work on shift training when they are sleepy. As with all training, especially with very young animals, we expect there to be a learning curve -- sometimes we take two steps forward, then three steps backward! Yesterday morning, the girls were awake and playing with Lun Lun, so we decided to try shift training with them. Mei Lun euthusiastically followed her mother all the way to the dayroom. Mei Huan was dragging her feet. Everything between the dens and the dayroom was way more interesting than following her mom -- a leaf, the doorway to an outdoor exhibit, the mesh! Poor Lun Lun was trying so hard to retrieve the cubs as we asked her to, but Mei Huan was just not cooperating. Everytime she gathered Mei Lun by the doorway and turned to get Mei Huan, then Mei Lun ran back to play with her sister. We finally let Lun Lun go eat, hoping the cubs would follow her out, but only Mei Lun did so. Mei Huan wanted to play in the hallway just outside the dayroom, and we could not convince her otherwise. Eventually, we had to bring Lun Lun back inside, separate her from the cubs, and carry them out to the dayroom. We appreciate everyone's patience as we work on training the cubs to go out into the dayroom!
Carnivore Keeper III