Panda Bai Yun continues to demonstrate appropriate behavior for a pregnant (or pseudopregnant) female. One particular behavior, known as “seeking seclusion,” has led to a change in her access this week.
Until recently, Bai Yun was given free run of the behind-the-scenes area near her bedroom, including her sun room, garden room, tunnels, and off-exhibit classroom. However, as her potential pregnancy wears on, she is more inclined to stay close to home and doesn’t seem to like sleeping out on the climbing structure in the classroom anymore. She prefers tucked-away places, like the garden room platform or the den. As a result, we have shut the door on the classroom exhibit. It won’t open again until she demonstrates more interest in stretching her legs after the influence of her pregnancy hormones have worn off.
Seeking seclusion seems a smart move for a panda mother-to-be. Panda cubs are fragile, helpless, and totally dependent upon their mothers for meeting all of their needs. The work involved in the constant care and nurturing of the panda neonate requires all of Mother Bear’s attention, and distractions in the area come at a cost to the mother and cub. If she is focused on external disturbances, Mother Bear has that much less attention to give to the activities inside her den. Tucking into a quiet, secluded space allows the female to focus on what is important: care of the cub and her own rest and recovery.
As the days fly by, we can expect Bai Yun to continue to narrow her focus from the surrounding areas to the den. If she is indeed pregnant rather than pseudopregnant, we should see her spend most of the day in the den starting a few days before a birth. Currently, she is visiting the den 3 to 5 times each day for periods of up to 30 minutes at a time, but the majority of her day is spent in the garden room or bedroom.
We’ll keep you posted as to her progress.
Suzanne Hall is a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Panda Pregnancy Watch in Full Force.