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Changes for Gao Gao

Posted by Jeroen Jacobs | Date: 2011 11 22 | In: San Diego Zoo


It has been awhile since Gao Gao’s surgical procedure, and he has had a good recovery from it. The surgical scar on his belly healed up nicely, and he has returned to being a mobile, active bear. Thankfully, the results of the procedure allowed us to rule out many significant issues that might have been causing his intermittent gastrointestinal (GI) issues, so we can rest a little easier knowing our bear is not suffering from a serious medical condition.

We are, however, working to determine the ultimate source of those GI issues. From time to time, Gao Gao gets a little sluggish and skips a meal or two. After a day or so like this, he rebounds and returns to his normal self. We aren’t quite sure why. It doesn’t appear to be related to the production of mucous stools, something common to pandas living in a zoological setting. Nonetheless, while we are working to get to the bottom of his health issues, the keepers are providing him with extra-attentive care.

We are looking at a multitude of potential contributors to his condition, including dietary influences and the wear pattern on his teeth. Unfortunately, our old boy has a number of dental issues, and we are suspicious that some of the wear and tear in his mouth may be the cumulative result of a life of bamboo consumption. Though we provide him with excellent dental care, bamboo is a pretty tough, fibrous plant to process, and years of stripping and chewing the culm has left Gao Gao’s teeth pitted and worn down. We saw a similar pattern with our old male, Shi Shi, whose teeth were also worn down in his later years. It’s possible this amount of wear is now making it harder for Gao Gao to properly process his bamboo, leading to his GI issues. As a result, our veterinary and nutritional staff have prescribed various treatments to improve his bamboo-feeding experience: limiting the size of culm strips he gets and feeding bamboo shoots and bamboo bread, for starters.

Though our boy is fully recovered from his procedure, work to help Gao Gao get his system back on track continues. However, you can come wish him well throughout the process, as he returned to the main viewing exhibit over the weekend.

Suzanne Hall, Senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

Source: San Diego Zoo
Picture by RitaPetita

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