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Panda Updates – Wednesday, November 21

Ya Lun and Xi Lun have hit a major milestone in their training! We have been working with them closely to prepare them for voluntary blood draws. Each day we can visually check the giant pandas’ health through our other husbandry behaviors, such as looking at their teeth and eyes, but being able to obtain a blood sample allows us to get an even closer look at their overall health.

We use positive reinforcement-based training, which means everything is completely on the pandas’ terms. If Ya Lun and Xi Lun don’t feel like participating in the training session or getting their blood drawn, they don’t have to! If they choose not to participate, we simply try again another day or adjust our training plan to make them more comfortable.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun have, however, picked up this behavior like pros and are eager to train each day. In this photo you can see a part of the panda’s behind-the-scenes overnight den areas. They spend most of their time in the habitats or dayrooms, but we will ask them to come into these areas when we need to clean or for training. The horizontal panels can be removed, and we can do a variety of training in these areas while still being securely separated from the pandas. The tube you see is our “blood sleeve.” We ask the giant pandas to place their arms into the tube, grab ahold of a horizontal bar, and hold in place. We then shave a small patch of their fur, which allows the veterinary staff to disinfect the area and draw blood.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun haven’t reached the final stage of having blood drawn and are still working on the training leading up to that point. They really enjoy the training interaction with their care team, so I don’t expect it will be much longer until they’ve got it down. So far, they have learned the behavior more quickly than any of their siblings before them have. So, if you see little patches of shaved fur on their arms, just know that they are training rock stars learning how to help their care team make sure they stay healthy!
Danica W.
Keeper I, Mammals

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