Update from Director Suzanne Braden’s September 2013 Trip to China:
In 2006 when Bifengxia was built it included a very small breeding center, as it was not designed as the main center for breeding. The original intent was that Bifengxia would house sub-adults and seniors but not the breeding age population. The 2008 earthquake changed everything so a “New” breeding center was built behind the hospital to house many more potential moms.
The master plan for panda births needed to continue despite the massive earthquake so breeding became an area of focus at Bifengxia.
I visited the new breeding center several times on this trip, always amazed at the maternal care of the panda moms and their human helpers! There is nothing better in all of my panda experiences than to watch a panda mom cradle her cub! The cubs and their moms definitely experience a special bond.
All pandas at the new breeding centers were doing well.
The first panda we visited was the beautiful Feng Yi, with her female cub born on 8-18. Feng Yi did not hide her cub as many moms do, but seemed ok with us admiring her beautiful baby and kept the cub on her lap. Feng Yi has been adopted by a dear friend and supporter of PI Chet Chin, who enjoyed spending time watching her adopted girl and new grandbaby.
Next was Cui Cui, who unfortunately didn’t have a cub this year, maybe next year. Nor did You You, who was sitting outdoors when I visited.
Next was Na Na, with a single cub born 8-27. They were sitting off to side of their enclosure.
Mei Sheng was in next enclosure and came outside to the gate when called, hope his time with the “ladies” will help him next season. Bifengxia is experimenting with leaving some of the breeding age males close to the females so they can learn about the various scents and vocalizations associated with matting.
Zhen Zhen, next door, successfully bred but the cub was born too early, and was still born, extremely sad, especially for Zhen Zhen’s very special adopters! But she looked good and is recovering well.
Rong Rong, another male, interspersed with the females, was in next enclosure.
Xi Xi, had the largest, oldest cub at the breeding center,cub born 7-10. Xi Xi likes to lay on her back with cub on her chest or in her arm, seems to be very good mom. While I was there was the first day Xi Xi had left her cub to go outside. I was told that Xi Xi was the cub in the online video of the sneezing panda.
Ge Ge had a cub on 9-2, but liked to keep the cub hidden from view by turning her back to us.
Jun Zhu, who did not have a cub, liked to spend most of her time outdoors.
A Ling also did not have a cub this year, but is for the time being still at the new breeding center.
Most of the moms seem to get anxious when their cubs are taken away from them by staff for health checks, etc. Na Na in particular ran to her cub and picked the cub up as quickly as possible. Although the moms all had different reactions it seemed to be stressful to them for the cubs to be away.