By Chet Chin There are not many good things to say about the Covid-19 pandemic that hit us in early 2020 and continues to cast its shadow globally till today. But to me, there is one unexpected but positive “side effect” for the giant panda world: overseas born pandas due to be returned to China that have had their journeys delayed and postponed more than once, continue to stay in the zoos where they were born. Zoo Negara Malaysia is one such zoo with a giant panda staying on extended time due to Covid-19. Yi Yi, our second panda cub born in Malaysia, celebrated her 5th birthday recently on 14 January. According to the Malaysian giant panda loan agreement, all panda cubs born here would have to be returned to China any time after their 2nd birthday. Nuan Nuan, our firstborn panda cub, was returned to China on 14 November 2017, less than 3 months after her 2nd birthday. Yi Yi looked set to follow in big sister’s footsteps after her 2nd birthday on 14 January 2020. But Covid-19 struck very soon after, with China going into lockdown later that month, and Malaysia following in mid March. Yi Yi’s birth in January is also something of an anomaly in the world of giant pandas. Giant panda cubs are usually born between July and September each year as the giant panda breeding season happens during the spring season (in this case, the northern spring season, because Sichuan Province, home of giant pandas, is located north of the equator). Her birth in January was more aligned with the southern spring season. Lucky for us in Malaysia that she was born in January. If not, we would not have had such an international gathering for her 2nd birthday on 14 January 2020. Yi Yi’s birth in January had also caught the attention of panda fans all over the world. As the firstborn panda cub in 2018, she enjoyed the sole attention of the fans for quite a few months before other panda cubs were born that year. This led to her winning the […]
Today marks a very special day in the Panda world, the world’s only surviving giant panda triplets, Ju Xiao's miracle babies, celebrated their 100-day birthday. The trio were born on July 29 at Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province. The triplets, two boys and a girl, each weigh more than 11 pounds, up from just over 3.5 ounces at birth. They started teething at around 80 days old and have two small teeth each. The cubs alternate time with mom as she is unable to care for all of them at once. The cubs are "swapped" on a weekly basis so that each can bond with mom and get the benefits of mother’s milk and mother’s nurturing care, a procedure developed by CCRCGP’s very own Dr. Li Desheng. CCRCGP sent the Head Nursery Keeper Mr. Wei Ming to help care for the triplets, from the Bifengxia Panda Base. He says of the triplets, “The first-born appears to be a very gentle girl. The elder brother is a naughty and energetic boy with a slim figure, while the younger brother is a quite big boy.” The cubs in the nursery get a special panda formula which Wei Ming brought from the Bifengxia Panda Base. The formula was provided by Pandas International. At 100 days, Chimelong general manager Dong Guixin says physical exams show the cubs’ health to be ideal. Starting Wednesday, the cubs will be displayed to visitors for limited times. They have not yet been officially named but will be soon, according to the zoo.
When we were in China in November, we were fortunate to meet a number of people who have adopted pandas through PI. Among the group were those who had JUST adopted Lin Bing, the beloved panda born in Thailand’s Chiang Mai Zoo. Lin Bing was returned to China earlier this year to find a mate during the next breeding season who, it is planned, will return to Thailand with her. We were not certain, upon departing for China, whether Lin Bin was still in quarantine at Bifengxia but were excited to find out (as were her adoptors) that she was, indeed, in her new enclosure and visible to the public.
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 [...]
In January, we wrote about a very special honor bestowed upon our Director, Suzanne Braden, by CCRCGP - one of the 2011 cubs was named after her! As a volunteer director of Pandas International for over 12 years, this was a truly special gift in recognition of Suzanne's dedication (and all the time she has donated through the years) to saving the Giant Panda. So we figured a perfect time to celebrate OUR Suzanne (she has no idea we're doing this) was in conjunction with Su Shan's birthday. Her "little" girl isn't so little anymore - but she is still just as cute. Happy 2nd birthday, Su Shan and THANK YOU, Suzanne, for all that you have done and continue to do for our favorite bears!