Pandas in China: One Year Later

Panda "kindergarten" at Bi Feng Xia

Panda kindergarten at Bi Feng Xia

When I returned to China for the 2009 breeding season, I was overcome with joy as I saw my Chinese friends in person. After the earthquake on May 12, 2008, I found some way to communicate with all of them, but there is nothing like being face to face. Forgetting that I was in China, I went up to each of them and gave them a huge hug. The looks on their faces were priceless! They don’t traditionally hug as a greeting, so to have a tall blonde woman hug you in public was shocking to most of them. Afterward they all just chuckled a little bit and changed the subject.

Life in Bi Feng Xia was business as usual. Female giant pandas were going into estrus everywhere you looked. It was as if the breeding center had broken out into song. After Hua Mei mated there was a huge dinner celebration because she had the first natural breeding session of the year!

Bi Feng Xia staff

Bi Feng Xia staff

New exhibits were opening almost every day as the Wolong relocated giant pandas returned home. I had drawn a map of the facility on my first day and by the time I left it was barely readable due to all the additions. The panda kindergarten was full of last year’s cubs, and they were constantly having a blast in their outdoor jungle gym enclosure.

The Panda Club has put up plaques throughout the panda base thanking everyone for their support. It is very clear that the world reached out to them in their time of need and we have made a difference in their ability to recover from the earthquake.

Jennifer Keating is a research scientist for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Mei Sheng’s New Exhibit.

0 Responses to Pandas in China: One Year Later

  1. What a wonderful update. Please thank Jennifer for us. I was down this morning, realizing it was the one year anniversary of the quake, but the update was up-lifting! Thank you again.

    I THINK I’m watching Mei on Cam 1 this morning, and she’s seems to have more energy. The X-Man was doing some pretty fancy climbing outside awhile ago; hanging upside down and being silly.

  2. Thanks for the update of May 12, 2009, Jennifer. It is great to know that the world can come together for peaceful solutions when emergencies strike. One day peace will reign on earth and all will get along and work to preserve the entire planet and all its inhabitants. Glad to know that Bi Feng Xia in 2009 is a thriving vibrant place. Hopefully all the staff their have had the opportunity to be reunited with their displaced family and friends as well.

  3. how cool!I can’t wait to see if Hua Mei has twins….AGAIN!

  4. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for your article of your time in China! I’m glad that you had a great time there doing your research and being with old friends and colleagues. I am very happy that Hua Mei was the very first mother panda to have natural mating during this breeding season. Hopefully, she will be successful in having another cub or two this summer after missing out last year due to the stress from the earthquake. I just got my email newsletter from Pandas International that described their thoughts and feelings of this first anniversary of the May, 2008 quake, and their remarkable efforts to get formulas, food, supplies, and equipment to Bifengxia after the quake hit and throughout the year. I also found out that another panda named Zhun Hai had died from a serious illness that resulted from the stress of the earthquake. The other panda (forgot the name) is still missing and has not been found after a year. PI has spearheaded a huge project of getting and raising funds to start the replanting process of bamboo in the mountains near the town of Gengda where the new Wolong Panda Center will be rebuilding. They have a target of 3 years to get this done, and they want to get it started now so that the wild and captive pandas will have their unlimited sources of food to survive. They didn’t mention where they were getting bamboo from to feed the captive pandas, but so far they have been getting enough. They want to plant 3 different species of bamboo in that area. The tshirts in remembrance of Mao Mao are still available thru the PI online store. That will be more money being raised for the bamboo planting project, as well as the rebuilding of Wolong Center and getting supplies/food/equipment to Bifengxia. The Chinese people are still mourning their family members and friends that were killed in the quake, especially the parents of the thousands of kids that were killed in their schoolhouses. It has been a very slow process of cleanup and rebuilding in the quake zone areas, and a very tough year for everyone that were affected by the quake.
    I got on the SDZ pandacams and noticed that the switcheroo of pandas has been done again! You now have Su Lin in the Cams C1-3 spot while Gao Gao is in the C27-29 spot. You still have Bai Yun and ZZ in their usual cam spots. That’s ok, tho! It gives the pandas something new to do with smells and a change of scenery.
    What’s the latest on Bai Yuns’s hormone levels since her mating with Gao? We would like to have an update about Bai as soon as you get that info. Been on the NZ panda page, and they still haven’t written any new updates about Mei Xiang, and no new updates on the Pregnancy Watch page. I did call them up to let them know that we all are waiting for those updates. I watched Mei last nite, and she was sleeping alot more on the rocks. She wasn’t as restless as she was the last few nites. Today, she was still indoors walking around there and in her den, standing on her hind feet a couple of times rocking from side to side. I also noticed that the den was cleaned out of all of the bamboo shreds and hay unless that is another den that Mei has access to. On the other NZ pandacam, Tai Shan was outside enjoying his bamboo lunch. Didn’t see Xi Lan on the AZ pandacam, but I’m going to get back on all of the cams to check these pandas out in a few minutes.
    Well, gonna go. Will check back in later!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  5. Moderator, can we find out if what I read on the other blog is true that Mei Sheng mated for the first time on 5/8 and may be a daddy soon? That is so exciting that the baby boy may be a daddy, I cried like a baby when he left and now he may be Studmuffin Jr.

    Moderator’s Note: We’re looking into it, and will post an update when we know more.

  6. So Hua Mei was the first to mate at Bi Feng Xia, and another blogger in the last thread said that Mei Sheng had mated also–here’s hoping for more grandkids for Bai Yun (and a new cub of her own, of course), Gao Gao, and the late Shi Shi.

    It’s great that Jennifer and Ron could see their friends and colleagues again, and to see that the pandas and their keepers in China are recovering and, hopefully, thriving after last year’s devastation. It is also heartening to know that our donations made a difference to those so far away.

  7. Our Hua Mei is the champ! Miss her and Mei Sheng so much!!!!

  8. Thank you for all stories on the china pandas and to know they are all doing well now. Hooray for Hua Mei it’s for sure she her mother child.

  9. I am so glad that everything is going great in China for everyone involved-human and pandas. I was wondering if they are still in need of financial assistance from the Zoo fans. I am trying to think of gifts for my parents in the form of donations and this was a wonderful opportunity last year.

    Moderator’s note: We are still accepting donations for the Wolong Panda Center Earthquake Relief Fund at

  10. Aww, the picture of the panda kindergarten is adorable! So happy things are going well there.