When I first found Hua Mei, she was bleating in an exhibit between Ling Ling and Wu Gang. These males were extremely excited and vocal about having her as a neighbor. Hua Mei’s keeper was trying to feed her some bamboo bread, but Hua Mei thought it would be better used as perfume. Hua Mei took the chunk of bread between her chin and shoulder and rubbed it into her fur. Once it fell to the ground, she began to lie on top of the leftovers and managed to cover her entire back in bamboo bread crumbles. I couldn’t hold back my laughter because she looked like she was having so much fun!
Rubbing herself in bamboo bread must be one the secrets to her success for breeding. Hua Mei, over the course of two days, mated four times. Each session was done to textbook, and she set a great example for the other giant pandas. I only hope they took notes. Of course, we won’t know for several months if a pregnancy was achieved.
I will be in China for the next several weeks collecting vocalizations from the giant pandas and working with Ben Charlton (Zoo Atlanta) on some audio playback studies. In my next blog, I will report on my progress and about Mei Sheng.
Jennifer Keating is a research scientist for San Diego Zoo Conservation Research.
Read Jennifer’s previous blog, Congratulations, Guo Guo!