Our panda research team recently traveled to China to meet with a range of our colleagues to discuss our collaborative panda programs, past and future. While the meetings went exceptionally well, a highlight of the trip was seeing our San-Diego-Zoo-born giant pandas at two of the panda bases we visited. It is always a treat to see our panda family while in China, and I am happy to report that they are doing well!
Mei Sheng is living at Dujianyan, looks to be in great shape, and seems to be quite comfortable in his large enclosure nestled in the hills surrounding the Giant Panda Research Centre. Pan Pan—legendary male from Wolong and the father of Bai Yun—is also in Dujianyan. At the age of 30, he moves a bit slower than he once did, and his physique is not quite as impressive, but he is doing well and certainly deserves to rest on his laurels! I had not seen him in 15 years, but seeing him brought me right back to those early days in Wolong, when he was by far the most successful breeding male at the base.
At Bi Feng Xia, we had the pleasure of seeing Hua Mei. Beautiful Hua Mei! She is as sweet as ever. I called to her just as I would have while she was here in San Diego, and I like to think that she recognized my voice. The adult Hua Mei reminded me so much of Bai Yun. But even watching her sit regally while munching away on bamboo, it was hard to believe that she was 16 years old and a grandmother herself!
While I didn’t get to see Zhen Zhen and Su Lin, I was told that both are in the pre-release training center at Wolong. Zhen Zhen had twins last summer; she is caring for both and the cubs are thriving. Su Lin is also caring for her cub, now 18 months old. While I missed being able to visit that incredibly beautiful location nestled deep in the mountains and see them both in person, I am glad that they both get to raise their cubs with the sound of Pitiao River amidst the peaceful and quiet of Hetauping.
Yun Zi will probably be moved back to the breeding base at Bi Feng Xia next year. I am looking forward to catching up with him then!
Megan Owen, Ph.D., is associate director of Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Climate Change Makes Polar Bears Work Harder to Survive.