Panda Updates – Friday, August 30
Like other bears, giant pandas, whether they live in the wild or in human care, have seasonal behavioral and physiological changes throughout the year. Late summer is one of the times of year that we see seasonal changes in the pandas’ behavior. We call this period the “summer slump.” This is a time when the pandas sleep more and eat less. The “summer slump” is sensible for pandas when you think about how they spend their time during the rest of the year.
During late fall and winter, males and females spend more time eating to bulk up for spring breeding season. Males want to put on as much weight as they can to be able to compete with other males for breeding access and to impress the females. Females want to be in optimal body condition to become pregnant. It also helps to put on some extra weight prior to breeding season because both males and females are busy finding mates and tend to spend less time eating once breeding season begins.
When breeding season is over, males start to slow down and rest more often. However, after breeding season, the females enter a hyperphagia period, which means they have a highly increased appetite and eat as much as they can for as long as they can prior to preparing for a birth. Fortunately, most bamboo species shoot while females are going through hyperphagia, so they can easily pack in the calories.
Birthing season coincides with the “summer slump,” which seems appropriate since females do not leave their dens for the first month after giving birth. The do not eat, drink, or eliminate waste during this time. Although they are very busy taking care of a newborn cub, they don’t move around much to conserve energy. Non-pregnant females also go through the same behavioral and physiological changes as pregnant females do and sleep most of the time.
Senior Keeper, Carnivores
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