Panda Updates – Wednesday, November 15
Many of you know that we don’t share spaces with our adult giant pandas, but we still frequently get questions regarding sharing the same space with the cubs. When I say “share a space,” I mean that there is no protective barrier between a keeper and an animal. That would be referred to as a free-contact animal (think along the lines of our petting zoo animals). Protected contact means that there is always a barrier between a keeper and an animal, for both human and animal safety.
Ya Lun and Xi Lun, no matter how fluffy and cute they appear, are still bears. Bears are built as carnivores despite their bamboo diet, and have all of the traits that come along with that distinction. Even with youngsters, there are claws, teeth, and more strength than you would expect from something so small. Giant pandas have one of the highest bite forces of any terrestrial carnivore, and the cubs, while not fully grown, are still capable of biting. Now that Ya Lun and Xi Lun are 14 months old, we no longer handle them for weighing or for any other reason. At their age, they tend to sleep most of the day and are not yet shifting reliably, although we still need to provide bamboo and habitat maintenance for them. As with all of the previous cubs, at this stage in their development, per our care protocols we do not enter the same space with them unless they are sleeping on top of structures or in moats, depending on which habitat they are in. Even then, we watch them closely, and if we see any signs that naptime is coming to an end, we vacate the area and will not re-enter until they shift into another area or are sleeping again. Once they start shifting reliably, this phase of their care protocol will be changing to reflect the protocol used with their parents in that we will move to strictly protected contact when working with them. This should occur in coming months.
Swing Keeper I, Mammals
(photo by Rhegan S.)