Last Friday evening, the giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a healthy panda cub at the National Zoo. As keepers vigilantly monitor the health of mother and cub, Smithsonian.com was able to capture a few minutes of time with panda keeper Juan Rodriguez and ask him about not only looking after the pandas, but also his recent trip to the Panda Base in Bifengxia, China and the continued collaboration between the two facilities.
Juan recounted his time at the Panda Base in Bifengzia as “an amazing learning experience on all levels.” He and colleague Marty Dearie had the opportunity to work with panda colleagues at Bifengxia – the Panda Base from which the National Zoo’s giant pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang are on loan. Rodriguez told Smithsonian.com about working with the keepers in China who have years and years of knowledge working with pandas both in captivity and in their wild habitat. They not only witnessed three cub births, one of which was a set of twins, but also had a chance to see how the nursery staff cares for the neonatal cubs, ranging from birth to two weeks of age, and some other cubs who were a month or two months old. He stated that seeing pandas at all different age stages all at once was “an invaluable learning experience.”
Asked about the highlight of his trip to China, Rodriquez replied,
“I think it was great to be able to meet our colleagues in China. Going over to China helps to reaffirm our commitment with our colleagues there and helps to give us a better understanding of the kind of work they do both in captivity and in the wild. They currently have one male that they have reintroduced into the wild, so ultimately those are the kinds of stories we want to be a part of and hear about. It’s not just reproducing cubs, it’s also about making sure that the species can exist in the wild. This is a very serious goal that we’re both committed to, and working together as one group, that synergy is great.”
Read the full article and more about Juan’s insight on Mei Xiang and the National Zoo’s newest addition at http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/aroundthemall/2013/08/a-zoo-panda-keeper-on-his-trip-to-china-and-why-mei-xiang-is-a-great-mom/