San Diego Zoo’s youngest panda, Yun Zi is now on his own. The keepers completed the weaning process for Yun Zi on Thursday, February 10. They had considered putting him together with his mother for a few hours in the mid-morning, but the young bear had enjoyed a hearty breakfast and was sleeping it off all morning. Taking advantage of his peacefulness, the decision was made to forgo a reunion. When he awoke, Yun Zi was moved through the tunnels to the bedrooms in the upper area of the San Diego Zoo Giant Panda Research Station.
Suzanne Hall, a senior research technician for the San Diego Zoo’s Office of Giant Panda Conservation, tells us more about the weaning process on www.sandiegozoo.org.
“It was good timing. Overnight videotaping from the previous two evenings had revealed that mother and offspring experienced bouts of separation anxiety. They had spent some time interacting across the separation gate, no doubt a frustrating experience for both animals. It was time for us to change the situation to the benefit of both bears.
Yun Zi had done amazingly well through this process. I have witnessed the weaning of each of our five cubs, and it is my opinion that he handled it the best. He displayed very few signs of concern about the process until the end. Even when he did get restless, the intensity of his anxiety seemed lower than that of some of the other cubs. Yun Zi is a champ.
Is this a factor of our fine-tuned process? Or is it just a result of his mellow personality? Or could it be that he was taking his cues from his mother, Bai Yun? After all, she has been through this process many times before, and she probably recognizes the opportunity to wean when it arises. The literature on weaning in other species strongly suggests experienced mothers are more likely to wean early and show fewer signs of anxiety in the first days after weaning is accomplished. Although we do the best we can for our animals, it is my suspicion that Bai Yun played the biggest role in determining the outcome here.
Yun Zi is now in an area with only one camera available. You will get to see him on camera, from time to time, in the garden room. In addition to this space, which places him in close proximity to the keepers, he has the run of three sunrooms and a pair of bedrooms. He will be well pampered by the staff when he feels like interacting. Bai Yun, for her part, will have Gao Gao across the separation gate for now. We will keep you updated as changes occur.”
Source: San Diego Zoo
Photo Credit: RitaPetita.