Hua Mei: Quite the Charmer

Hua Mei in China

Hua Mei in China

I have returned to China for this year’s breeding season, and to my surprise, Hua Mei was the center of attention in Bifengxia. Hua Mei did not breed last year due to the earthquake, so she was ready to be at the front of the pack this year. The Bifengxia Giant Panda Base (part of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda) is in the final stages of building its new breeding center. Workers are just finishing up the front entrance, but the 14 panda exhibits are finished and in use. They have made many improvements to the design of the breeding center, including some new safety measures for the keepers.

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!

0 Responses to Hua Mei: Quite the Charmer

  1. Jennifer, you realize you’ve just made our entire week – not only with news of Hua Mei but that you are going to report on Mei Sheng!

    News about our pandas long gone, but never far from our hearts, is far and few between, thank you so much!

  2. Talk about success! Mating 4 times with 2 beaus! And how cute is the part about the bamboo bread. I would so love to see all the pandas in China. Thank you, Jennifer, for the report. I am also reading the reports posted at Zoo Atlanta. I hope they can convince some people about letting the babies stay with their moms until mom is ready to wean her baby. I have always thought it was wrong for the Chinese to separate the babies so early. They could be learning so much from the mothers. Just my opinion.

  3. I think I misinterpreted the part about the 2 beaus. She probably didn’t mate with both of them. My bad! :)

  4. I think you are right Dianne (#3), I am pretty sure Hua Mei only mated with one of the males. Maybe in Jennifer’s next update, she could let us know which one of her suitors Hua Mei favored. I hope it proves to be a successful mating and that Bai Yun has success as well. Still have my fingers crossed for Ya Ya and Mei Xiang as well. This could be a banner year for panda cubs! Thanks for the update Jennifer. I think I speak for all of us pandafanatics when I say we are eager to hear about what you and Ben are doing, especially if it involves Hua Mei and Mei Sheng. Can’t wait to hear the news about him. Seems he would be old enough to mate this year. That would be wonderful too. Hope he takes a page out of his Daddy Gao’s book of natural mating! 😉

  5. Way to go Hua Mei! You show your Chinese cousins what to do.

    Diane # 2 & 3 – What is wrong with 2 beaus? Remember they only get the “urge” for a couple of days each year so why not play the field. Remember – variety is the spice of life.

  6. Jennifer, I can’t thank you enough for the update on our beloved Hua Mei. Wow she sure is doing her part to help the panda population and the anticipation of your next blog about of baby boy Mei Sheng. this has started my week off just right. Hua Mei surely is her mothers daughter.Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

  7. Thanks for the update! that was a funny story..i loved it! yeah How is Mei sheng??? You think Hua Mei is gonna give us twins again?!!!

  8. I managed not to cry when ZZ left mummy but one mention of Mei Sheng and I’m off in tears. Hua Mei is a star. Only 8 months until my trip to USA including Washington DC and San Diego.

  9. Marion #8 – Where are you from?

  10. I was lucky enough to meet both Mei Sheng and Hua Mei last year when I visited Bifengxia.

    I’m so glad that they’re both doing well and Hua Mei could be a proud mummy this year.

    Is the new breeding station at the top of Leopard Mountain The station where i worked, and had to walk through the building site everyday.

    I’m planning on going back next year to see my friends there (both panda and human)

    Please keep the updates coming. I’ll blog about them on my panda related news site, PandaNews dot org

  11. Thanks Jennifer for our hoped for update on Hua Mei. She sounds like she is a super breeding female like her mom, Bai Yun. Since she was the one they first tried panda porn videos on, she obviously got “it” because she has already produce 6 healthy cubs in 3 pregnancies, and deserved the two years off that she has had in the past 4 years. She is still young and obviously very healthy and in prime breeding condition. She is a excellent teacher to her neighbors, and is doing her part to keeping Shi Shi’s genes going in the gene pool.

    We look forward to Mei Sheng’s update, especially since he is due to premiere as a breeding male this year.
    I can’t wait to hear what antics he is up to. Did they show him panda “porn” videos too.

    I will be interested to see if he responds to your voice and to English as he has in the past when SDZ visitors went to see him. Does Hua Mei respond to English commands anymore?

  12. Thanks for telling us about Hua Mei. I watched her when she was born and as she grew and made sure to go see her before we moved away from California in 2000. It is still hard for me to believe that that little cub has been a mom several times already.

  13. Hi Lee #9, I am from Kirkcaldy in Scotland. I last visited SD Zoo in Mar 2003 and saw Hua Mei. Bai Yun and Gao Gao were off exhibit making Mei Sheng. I’m visiting 4 US cities for my 40th birthday in November and have my 2 panda visits planned in.

  14. It is so nice to see a picture of Hua Mei. She is beautiful! Thank you for sharing the information.

  15. What a funny image of Hua Mei rolling herself in bamboo bread crumbs! I agree with barbara #6 that she really is her mother’s daughter–she seems to have inherited Bai Yun’s sense of humor (I swear she has one) and creativity.

    It is wonderful to be able to keep up with the American-born pandas after their return to China. They become such a big part of our lives.

  16. Thank you for updating us about Hua Mei. She is definitely a breeding superstar. It is great to know that improvements are being made at the breeding center and everyone, human and panda alike, will benefit. I’m thrilled for you, Jennifer, that you are back in China and conducting important research. We’ll all be excited to learn from your efforts. I know your heart is happy to get to see your friends again, whether furry or human. :)

    #2 Dianne…I, of course, passionately agree with you about mothers and cubs being kept together. I’m still hopeful after reading that more cubs are being kept with their moms for longer periods of time as the number of captive pandas has increased. Precious cubs need tutelage from their moms if at all possible.

    I love Hua Mei’s picture included with this update. How cute! What male panda wouldn’t find her enticing, especially when she was “breaded”? :) One great thing the pandas have taught me about my cat is that she likes smells for the sake of smells, much as people find different scents appealing. My cat runs to the kitchen when I prepare certain foods and seemingly begs and meows incessantly, yet she doesn’t like human food. After watching the pandas delight in certain smells, it dawned on me that my cat is the same way. (She loves the smell of pungent spices and any type of sausages. I think they tickle her nose.) It’s neat what the pandas teach us about our own animal companions.

  17. It’s so strange — but I had the same experience as Marion #8 — as soon as I read Mei Sheng’s name — I burst into tears too — even typing this I got a little bleary eyed. Just miss him so — such a sweet, sweet bear. So looking forward to hearing how he is, if he’s ready for a mate, and a picture would be icing on the cake.

  18. I would imagine that Hua Mei’s prospective mates were chosen very carefully, as the distribution of the genes in the panda gene pool is very important. They want as wide a variety as possible so as to prevent inbreeding, and create a healthy panda population.

    Dear Gao Gao is worth his weight in gold, and so will be his offspring!

  19. I’m not surprised Hua Mei is so popular with “the guys” . She is a gorgeous lady! Even though she’s all grown up, I can still see her as that little cub we all fell in love with back in 1999. I hope her breeding was successful, and she has another set of twins!

  20. That is our Girl! There will never be another quite like her. Can’t wait to hear if Mei Sheng has a girlfriend.

  21. Jennifer – Thank you SO much for the wonderful update on Hua Mei and the picture! She was my 1st cub to follow so she is extra special to me. The fact that she is Shi Shi’s only offspring and has done a HUGE job of passing on her father’s genes, is another reason she is so special.

    I can not wait to hear how our boy, Mei Sheng, is doing. I thought this might be his 1st year to breed, too!
    We may have all kinds of cubs to follow this year! So exciting!!!

  22. Dear Oh Great Moderator
    We’ve noticed while browsing the Meet the Apes page, Janey the Orangutan has her own Myspace page complete with her artwork and information. We were wondering why none of the pandas have one. Is it possible to set one one up for the pandas? :)

    Moderator’s note: Only if they start painting. 😉

    P.S. Will there be another Gao Gao Un-Birthday celebration next year?

    Moderator’s note: It’s sure to be a tradition!

    P.P.S. Hopefully the zoo will welcome another cub(s) this year. 😉

    P.P.P.S. Hope you have another cub this year Hua Mei! (since you are such a great mother like your mom Bai=))

  23. Cheryl and Marion, I like you just have to hear his name and the tears start. What is it about that boy? Is it his smile, sensitive side or his overall look or just because he was our first boy. Whatever it is i’m hooked. He will have his pick of the ladies and they will be very lucky.

  24. Ann #18, Hua Mei is Shi Shi’s offspring, not Gao’s. Shi Shi’s genes are ever rarer as Hua Mei is the only offspring he had to date.

  25. Jennifer, do you know if the same two girls picked out for Mei Sheng are still in the picture, or if they have changed the potential mates for him? I am hoping you will include what information you can find out about their breeding plans for him since this is a debut year for him.

  26. Marion #13 – Thanks for the info. We really are a global group – I’m from Canada. I know exactly what you mean about travelling to see the pandas. It is so exciting to see them in person. I was so fortunate last year to see the pandas in SD but also to see the ones in Thailand (where they did AI last month and hopefully will have their first baby) and the 4 in Hong Kong. One of these years I will get to China to see Hua Mei and Mei Sheng again but that is way in the future. We are so fortunate for these blogs as they keep us all informed.

  27. Such wonderful news from China!! I too can not WAIT for word on our boy Mei Sheng!! He was my first bear to go back to the “motherland” and I cried along with all of you reading the stories of his move!! These bears sure do have a way of working themselves into every little nook and cranny of your heart!!

    Have a wonderful visit Jennifer and keep us posted. Zoo Atlanta has also been posting from their staff that is there with you…so panda fans if you get a chance, mosy over to the ZA web site and read thei entries as well….maybe we will get a double dose of a Sheng update?!?! We can only hope!!

    THANKS again for the wonderful stories!!

  28. Thank you for the wonderful update Jennifer. It reminds me of an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ with George and pastrami :) I am looking forward to hearing about Mei Sheng.

  29. Thank you so much for the wonderful update!

  30. Thank you so very much for all the wonderful and exciting news from Bifengxia. Yes, our sweet Hua Mei is “quite the charmer” – what male panda could resist her? Jennifer, if Hua Mei is pregnant, would she deliver her cub or cubs in June or July 09?

    Many thanks Jennifer; I am anxiously awaiting news about our handsome prince, Mei Sheng.

  31. Hi Jennifer, thanks for this update on Hua Mei. Wouldn’t it be a real coup if she had her fourth set of twins?! I can’t wait!! And, like everyone else, I’m really looking forward to hearing the latest (with pictures of course) on Mei Sheng.

    By the way, slightly off topic, how did the photos you took last July at the Panda and Polar Bear Breakfast turn out?

  32. cant wait to see the news about meisheng

  33. You go girl!! Looking forward to hearing about Mei Sheng. xoxo

  34. Thank you so much for this wonderful update. The photo and episode description are priceless. I remember as if it were yesterday Hua Mei in that same position trying to vamp Gao Gao. She and Gao were at the howdy door the first day Mei Sheng went on exhibit — December 20, 2003. I have great video of that encounter. What a girl!
    I am so happy to learn that so many love Mei Sheng as much as I do. Can hardly wait for the update on him.

  35. Cheryl 17# I felt de same… Mei Sheng will be in my heart forever.

    I really miss the Baby Boy.

  36. Thank you for a wonderful, funny update about Hua Mei. She seems to take after her mom, Bai Yun when it comes to mating ( & why not 2 anxious suitors – just think how famous one of those males will be if Hua has another cub or twins ) :) What an interesting family tree & important genes that Hua Mei has – pappa; wild born Shi Shi, mom first captive born panda Bai Yun ( daughter of wild born pappa Pan Pan). :)
    Our beloved Mei Sheng also has genes as valuable – so we anxiously wait for an update on his status. :)

  37. Why do you suppose Hua Mei continues to be mated with Ling Ling? She already has cubs by him. I thought that diversity in the gene pool was a goal. Are there no other choices of males for her that have diverse enough DNA? Is it all because of Bai Yun’s prolific father, Pan Pan, who passed on his genes to 17% of Wolong’s population? However, one year, it was mentioned that Dadi might be a potential suitor for Hua Mei and he’s her uncle! I’m confused – any clarity would be great.

  38. Am hoping that because of the earthquake damage to the Wolong panda reserve & the subsequent overcrowding at Chengdu & other panda reserves that our beloved Tai Shan (NZ), Su Lin (SDZ)and Mei Lan (ZA) will be able to spend a few more years with us instead of their planned return to China :) I can’t begin to imagine my beloved hellion Tai leaving :(

  39. Now we know what drives the panda guys wild — scent of bamboo bread. :)

  40. Thanks so much, Jennifer, for remembering us here and posting the information about Hua Mei. It is like hearing from a distant relative. I love the bread story. I guess she was thinking that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and that she would smell as sweet as the best food in pandaland. Now, that’s one smart panda!

    I’m also excited to hear about Mei Sheng.

    Give both of them a kiss from us, and tell them we miss them and that we am soooooooooooo proud of them.

    Love, Joy :)

  41. Well ladies….you know what they say…A way to a man’s heart…

  42. I haven’t had much time to watch the cam or post! So, thank you for the updates, and everyone’s posting. I love the shot of Hua Mei. You are your mommy’s daughter. CAN’T WAIT FOR THE UPDATE ON MEI SHENG!!!!! Thank you again.

  43. What is it about the boys? Tai Shan and Mei Sheng are so special. The girls are beautiful, and it seems Hua Mei is very smart, but LOVE DA BOYS! Count me in on the waitlist for some news and PICS of Mei Sheng!
    Thanks, Jennifer.

  44. Jennifer, I was so happy to read this update. Thank you so much. We rarely get any news about Mei Sheng or Hua Mei and those of us who have followed their progress for several years are desperate to hear how they are doing. Love the picture too. Please keep updates coming. Perhaps you could also persuade some of staff based in Bifengxia to give us occasional updates too. It would be wonderful if we could interact with them sometimes and we could tell them how much we value them as caretakers of our beloved pandas.

  45. Thanks, Jennifer, for your narrative and work at Bifengxia. Great to hear news from that side of the world.

    Conversation with Gao Gao #56

    Gao Gao: Zzzz-z-zzzz.
    Tourist: Oops. Sorry…
    G: Huh… Huh?
    T: Oh, sorry, did I wake you?
    G: Huh?
    T: You were asleep.
    G: I was following this trail…
    T: What trail?
    G: Trail of little crumbs.
    T: Crumbs?
    G: Yeah, crumbs of steamed bamboo cornbread.
    T: Huh?
    G: They were fresh out of the steamer… Such delectable aroma.
    T: I don’t see or smell anything.
    G: I followed the trail to the wilds of Fengtongzhai.
    T: Huh?
    G: And of course, the panda reservation station, too.
    T: Yeah?
    G: Then I stopped by Bifengxia.
    T: Some dream!
    G: Then Chengdu Research Center.
    T: Dream on, old boy!
    G: Then I made the rounds into Wolong Reserves, then into Qinling and Gansu.
    T: Wow!
    G: Then I circled and spiraled around into Qinghai, Shaanxi, Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan…
    T: Must have been a long trip.
    G: No, not really.
    T: What do you mean by not really?
    G: Time goes quick when you engage with the ladies.

  46. Carole #34, Hua Mei and Gao Gao were at the Howdy gate and saw each other? This was before my time so I didn’t get to see it in person. I was under the impression that Hua Mei didn’t see any pandas at the Howdy gate, so I am thrilled to find out that I was mistaken. I know she left before Mei Sheng was old enough to see her at SDZ. Since they were housed across a pathway at Bifengxia when she first arrived there I wonder if they got visual contact at all? We know they would have had sound and smell of each other. Amazing when you think that they travelled 1/2 way around the globe to be able to be that close.

  47. Margaret #46. Gao was Hua Mei’s first love. According to the panda keepers, she would wait for him to pass by her bedroom area on the way to his exhibit and he would stop momentarily to say “good morning.” After the howdy door was opened, they would meet there — he biting the back of her neck through the chain link, she often lying in the position shown in the above photo, he handstand scent marking, both bleating. Many of us in San Diego were hoping (and it was considered) that she would be left in San Diego and bred to Gao. However, she was sent to Wolong in February 2004.

  48. Margaret #46: After I read what Carole said I went to google and typed in Hua Mei & Gao Gao and I found a flickr sites that had pictures of their encounter at the howdy gate! The flickr site is Rita Petita, she has a nce series of their meeting.

  49. Kathy and Carole thanks for filling in Hua Mei’s history at SDZ. Unfortunately I didn’t discover this website until shortly after Su Lin made her public debut. Therefore Mei Sheng was almost 2 and Hua Mei was already in China. I am thrilled to hear of her interactions with Gao, and it make sense that she could have been bred with him while she was still in SD because he is not her father and not genetically linked to her.

    Can you imagine what their offspring might have been like? Power packed wild genes for sure. It is a nice dreamy thought although it never materialized.

  50. Thanks for the update! I love all things panda. Especially Hua Mei, she was my first!

  51. Carole #47: Thank you for sharing that information, I did know that about Hua Mei and Gao – although I’m not surprised she couldn’t resist that sweet face :). That is actually an interesting idea and a similar thought occured to me (not in relation to them of course) after the earthquake in China. I thought to myself, what if the absolute worst had happened and only the pandas that are in captivity had survived – then the pandas would be even one more step closer to extinction. But if we had several substantial populations in different areas around the world we would have the means to rebuild the population if we had to. I can’t imagine a world without pandas now that I know them.

  52. Since Su Lin was my first SDZ panda (Tai was my first, first), I need some help. Hua Mei’s father is who?

    Moderator’s note: Hua Mei’s father was Shi Shi.

  53. Thank you Jennifer for the update. Our Hua Mei is doing so well and maybe part of the reason is that she had her full time with Bai. I know the Chinese have reasons for taking the little ones away so early from their mothers but I think most of us agree that “natural” is better and it possibly allows for a more natural panda. Now we have to see how our big boy Mei Sheng does. I’m betting he will be a big success with the ladies.

    I would love to go to China to see them all. However I am lucky to be able to see all our pandas in San Diego at least once a year. Marion you will have the time of your life and lucky you in getting to see not just ours here too. I hope the sun shines for you in November.

  54. Oh my! Thank you Kathy #48 for the tip on Rita Petita’s Flickr site.

    Go there, you will find lots of sets of our panda girls with simply dozens of wonderful photos. I have bookmarked it! There are many sets of SDZ pandas. She even got to go “backstage” and got some fantastic close-ups of Su Lin and Bai Yun. She has many priceless shots of ZZ.

    Don’t miss it!

  55. #37 Ava – I think Hua Mei has a lot to say with whom she mates – “no likee no matee”. There was a funny story last year about a female panda that chased 2 possible suitors across the enclosure as she had no desire to mate with either. In the panda world seems like the female rules.
    Many commenting about the pictures of Hua & Gao on Flickr seems to think that Gao was her father. The family trees are complicated but fun to study – as many of us tried to match up Tai with Lani (ZA) or SuLin (SD) only to find they are all related.

  56. #38-Maureen in Stanwood: I’m with you about Tai, Su Lin, and Mei Lan staying stateside. Tai was my first panda-love. I was able to watch him from infancy. (Somewhat, that is. I had dial-up…I called it stutter-vision!) Anyway, when I just think of him having to go to China, I get this big knot in my throat. I can see myself going to DC and throwing myself in the path of the cage, to stop them from taking him. I am planning a trip to NZP in May to see him. I haven’t seen any of the pandas in person, so this is a must for me. I never got to know Mei Sheng, but, even not knowing him, I felt the passion of the keeper who accompanied him, and I sat reading the story with tears on my cheeks, sobbing my heart out. I am just as passionate about all these precious little creatures, who have stolen out hearts, and, soon, will probably take them to China with them. OH rats! There’s that knot again! :-( But who knows, maybe by that time, Tai could have a little brother or sister! (Fingers and toes all crossed.)

  57. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for your update about what you are doing in China and about Hua Mei. Sounds like she’s getting ready for some dates with some eligible male pandas around there! That was really funny about how she rubbed herself with her bamboo bread instead of eating it! She must really be in estrus by now!!
    P Wong, another great conversation from Gao! That was a fantastic dream that he had!
    Ben Charlton from Atlanta Zoo also wrote an update today about his work at Bifengxia that he’s getting started with. He said that he should have some interesting results in a few weeks.
    Finally got a chance to catch up on some pics and vids on youtube and pandas live on. These pandas get crazy when it snows, and Tai Shan in DC took the award for being the craziest with his snowflake chasing and walking on his hind legs! What a ham!! Gonna get back on these 2 sites later to see some panda vids! Speaking about videos, Atlanta Zoo has a short video of Xi Lan really giving his mom, Lun, a cub sized shake down while she’s eating her boo! He really wanted some attention from his mom!!
    Well, gonna go and get some sleep. Will check back later!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  58. Linda #52, Shi Shi was a older panda when he came to SDZ,they estimate he was born sometime in the 70’s. He was injured and couldn’t be returned to the wild. Our beloved Shi Shi died last July in his “retirement” home. He was blind and deaf and much loved by his longtime keeper. Even through he was confined to his cage towards the end for his safety he knew through vibrations and the sense of smell where food, water and even his keeper was. Hua Mei is his greatest gift to all of us and the future of preserving the pandas.

  59. While we are on the subject of our beautiful Hua Mei…

    This is for all panda lovers who have not seen the video of Hua Mei taken on Sept. 21, 2008, at the Bifengxia Panda Reserve.

    The video on Youtube shows Hua Mei in her enclosure. It’s called – Hua Mei at Bifengxia Panda Reserve. The lucky visitors were able to get a close up view of the San Diego Zoo born panda. Hua Mei was thoroughly enjoying a feast of bamboo shoots and the visitors where thoroughly enjoying Hua Mei. :-)

  60. Gao Gao has been very busy this morning. I noticed him scent marking throughout the exhibit. I also saw Gao climb a tree. (something I haven’t seen him do in a long time). I wonder if Bai Yun is sending messages? :-)

  61. Barbara #58 — thanks for the info. I knew a little about Shi Shi from his bio on the website (did I miss on there that he was Hua’s father?). I remember his passing last summer. What a guy he was. He gave a lot to the world in Hua Mei. That little vixen!

  62. Go to the youtube site that Rose#59 gives us, scroll down and watch a video titled “panda loves to play with mikey” Makes you wonder why these bears live a solitary life when they are capable of such love.

  63. Ever time I have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of ZZ lately she has been very happily munching away on a feast of bamboo, or exploring her yard. She seems to be one hungry girl, and takes after both of her parents in “chowing down” on her boo. She seems to be thriving under the watchful eye and loving extra care of her keepers. Must be a hard job making a newly independent female panda sub-adult a happy panda. (smile) We would all be lined up if the position was posted as a vacancy!!!

  64. #56 – Linda – Tai was also “my first panda” that I watched grow up via panda cams. I wonder if it was his personality or the NZ panda exhibit; but he always seemed to be getting in trouble of some kind – I was watching & worried the night he didn’t come down from his tree for hours. And then there was night he climbed on mom’s back & disappeared through the window in their dayroom. :) Oh they do make you smile:)

  65. I just got to watch Animal Planet’s show “Untamed and Uncut” about the Panda Center during the China earthquake. I’m still teary-eyed. What bravery from the Chinese People. I remember that time after the quake when not much info was getting out and we were all concerned about the precious pandas there. The dedication of the Keepers and all the Panda Center Staff is inspiring. They care so much for the animals. It is clearly not “just a job” for them… it is their passion. I’m still shaking from the thoughts of the mountains crumbling and falling towards the research center and I am amazed that no one else was hurt in it all and that all but 2 pandas are safe and sound, living and happy in their new homes.
    Also it was nice to see Dr. Ron Swaisgood, who was our vital link to the Chinese scene in Wolong at that time.

    I know from my trips there, that the SDZ staff is similarly concerned about their animals. I hope you all are encouraged by the people who wish they could be in your shoes (i.e. the pandaFANatics here) and are having a SUPER wonderful day!
    Love, Joy :)

  66. Maureen #64 Tai is the first panda I was able to see in person. He sat there eating a fruitcicle and I sat there crying. He is a sight, the faces he make and I swear he had brain freeze from thre frozen treat because his eyes kind of rolled and he sneezed. The pandas took up most of the day and it was worth it. I am planning to be in Calif in Sept or Oct and I will be at SDZ even if I have to walk from Torrence were my sister lives.

  67. #64 Maureen in Stanwood MI and #56 – Linda: I, too, can claim Tai Shan as my “first” panda encounter on a panda cam. I could not believe how mesmerizing these creatures are – it was hard to let go and get back to work. Speaking of Tai getting in trouble, the incident I remember was of him in Sept 2006 being high up in a tree during a sudden rainstorm, with very strong winds. He hung on to that branch as the trees swayed side to side. He even decided to climb higher! I’m glad someone was able to capture the images from the webcam. If you go on YouTube and search for “Tai Shan in a Storm”, it should come up for you.

    Saw miss ZZ today having her fill of boo and then sleeping soundly in her bedroom with one arm over her eyes – cute as can be!! I also caught a glimpse of the bears in Memphis, but I could not tell who I was watching. I’m looking forward to the news of Ya Ya and Mei Xiang and how their progressing through estrus. It could be a very exciting summer!!

  68. #55 Maureen – I realize Hua Mei is a girl who knows what she wants! But her DNA is valuable and I hope they are presenting her enough males to spread it around a bit and not get into the Pan Pan/Dadi overload that the Wolong line got into. Sticking with only a couple of stud males creates breeding difficulties and lack of diversity in subsequent generations. Hua Mei already has cubs by Ling Ling – time for a new boyfriend! Both of Ling Ling’s parents were wild born so he is a valuable stud. His brother on his father’s side is Le Le at Memphis Zoo.

  69. #66 barbara – how I envy you seeing Tai in person. We did manage to get a glimpse of 5 month old SuLin high in her tree when we visited the SDZ in 2006. I kept dragging my poor hubby back into the long line for the exhibit but the 4th time around he had enough so sat on bench & had a wonderful view of SuLin high on her favorite perch while I craned to see her – But I was thrilled when pappa Gao (who had been eating bamboo with his back to visitors) decided to get up & walk all around his enclosure – he came so close to the glass & the moat – it seemed like we could reach out & touch him :) :) What a thrill

  70. Note: Memphis Zoo Panda Blog has 3/11/2009 entry for Day 2 Part 1 video on Ya Ya and Le Le estrus behavior.

  71. We had a wonderful visit to the SDZ on Mar 5th. Gao Gao and Bai Yun were happily munching boo when we were there. I was absolutely amazed at the beautiful gardens at the zoo, only to find out it is the largest botanical garden in CA. There is bamboo growing everywhere and wonderful flowers and trees. I got some great pics of Gao Gao, and a few of Bai Yun too. Thank you for making such a wonderful place to visit. We will be back when vacation time and finances allow. My husband very much enjoyed the reptile exhibit. I thought the primates were wonderful to watch.

  72. I remember that Gao had a shaved patch on one “arm” as a result of his recent physical exam, but does he have a bare spot on the other “arm” now, too? I wasn’t sure if I was seeing things yesterday or if I just hadn’t noticed the second spot until now. I hope all is well with Gao the Great.

    Tai was having a good time again yesterday. He was climbing trees and hugging and wrestling a fallen tree that extended over the steep slope at the bottom of his yard. He was also jogging over to the open spaces in the fence to see whether he had Mei’s attention. (We don’t get to see pandas move that fast very often!) I’ve been wondering if Tai is going through panda puberty. Papa Tian was also climbing trees yesterday and pacing, of course. The NZ cam operators are getting a workout trying to follow their boys around the yards all day! Mei seemed oblivious to it all. Her hormone levels have been increasing but the report from last week says it’s probably too early to consider the increase to be a secondary rise in her hormone concentrations. I would be thrilled if Mei has a cub. Since it would likely be in May, it would be fun if she gave birth on Mother’s Day, wouldn’t it? :)

    Le Le has been pacing, too. He has a unique twist on the typical male panda behavior. When he’s pacing and ready to switch directions, he sits and twirls around on his tailbone. It’s funny to watch, so if you get a chance to see him outside, enjoy Le Le’s show. I know male pandas pirouette when they’re in mating season but I hadn’t seen this particular variation.

  73. In case you haven’t seen it yet, there is a beautiful and funny video of Xi Lan and Lun Lun on YouTube “Who’s the Winner at WWF Bout #1, Sat March 7th @ Zoo Atlanta?”

  74. Thank you, thank you, thank you for updating us regarding precious princess, Hua Mei! Knowing she is happy and enjoying life in China is what makes me smile. I miss her and Mei Sheng a lot, and am looking forward to reading about prince charming, Mei Sheng. I am glad that Hua Mei is so eager to mate again so that her and her papa, Shi Shi’s precious genes are going to be multiplied and help save the pandas from extinction. Way to go, Hua Mei!

    I hope prince Mei Sheng will get his turn soon on being the resident stud! It would be nice to see little Mei Shengs running around!

  75. Thanks for the update on Hua Mei. I was in Wolong as a volunteer several summers ago…assigned to the delightful young keeper, “Boogie”, and had lots of interaction with Hua Mei and her twins from the year before… an experience that gave me the greatest joy ever!!!! I hope to return sometime soon.
    Thanks again,
    Donald

  76. It is sooo good to get information on Hua Mei!!! I love and miss her daddy so much and knowing that she is doing so well makes me smile.