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“Yuan Yuan” Gets Back in the Nurturing Groove - Fresh Milk is Best!

Three days have now passed since the baby Giant Panda “sister of Yuan Zai” was reunited with her mother “Yuan Yuan” on July 22nd (Wed). The keepers have been observing the mother and daughter’s interactions together in 24-hour shifts.

On day 1, “Yuan Yuan” was very protective of her cub and kept a certain distance from the bars. This was very different behavior for “Yuan Yuan” as she used to lean against the bars for a good pat. She also deliberately turned her back to block the keepers’ view. After 6 hours, it was time to extract the cub for a check-up. But “Yuan Yuan” did not want to be separated from her cub yet. Even though the keeper brought out her favorite treat, honey, as a distraction, whenever the cub made the slightest noise, her mother would turn around to check on its condition. The keepers eventually managed to find an opening and extracted the cub. The bodyweight of “sister of Yuan Zai” was measured and she was found to be 21g heavier than before her return, which means the cub must have nursed from her mother in the interim.

On July 23rd (Thu), the duration of the cub’s time with her mother was extended to 10 hours in accordance with the “Baby Return” plan. At around 9:30 AM, the keeper returned “sister of Yuan Zai” to her mother for a second time. The keeper’s observations showed that after having spent a day together, “Yuan Yuan” was no longer nervous. She was now calmer and stopped trying to hide the cub all the time. The keeper observed that “Yuan Yuan” was nursing “sister of Yuan Zai” during this time. At 14:49 in the afternoon, the keeper saw “sister of Yuan Zai” nursing from both her mother’s left and right teats for more than 10 minutes. “Sister of Yuan Zai” seemed quite content and there was even milk dribbling from the corner of her mouth. Fresh milk from her mother seemed particularly delicious!

During the 10 hours that she spent with her mother on the second day, “sister of Yuan Zai” gained 28g of bodyweight. The keepers also observed that during those two days, “Yuan Yuan” licked the cub around the anus on several occasions to stimulate urination and defecation. She then licked the cub clean afterwards. Once the mother and daughter have both eaten their fill, they fell asleep together in each other’s embrace. “Yuan Yuan” was able to get back in the groove of motherhood so quickly thanks to the “stuffed cub” training method. “Yuan Yuan’s” strong maternal instincts was a great relief to all of her nursemaids as well.