San Diego Zoo

UPDATE! San Diego Zoo's Panda Cub Gets His Name (and a Few New Teeth)


If you’ve been following the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda cub’s progress on ZooBorns, you’ll know the Zoo follows the Chinese cultural tradition of waiting to name Panda babies until they are at least 100 days old. The cub was named Xiao Liwu, which means "little gift," at a public ceremony held on Nov. 13, 107 days after he was born.

You may also know he has a weekly check up. Yesterday Giant Panda team member Jennifer Becerra carried Xiao Liwu from his den to the exam room where he had his final vaccination. And "little gift" is getting bigger!  He weighed 10.8 pounds and measured 25.5 inches... and the vet saw and felt several teeth coming through in his mouth!

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Photo Credit: Photo 1: Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo, Photo 2: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo

The animal care staff set out a ball, a chew toy and some bamboo on the exam floor so the cub would have different items to explore. Matt Kinney, DVM, noted that while he's crawling better than in previous weeks, they don't feel Xiao Liwu is yet able to navigate the uneven terrain of Panda exhibits. So he’ll continue to practice his crawling and walking skills in an off-exhibit suite of rooms before he and his mother, Bai Yun, are given access to a public exhibit. You can watch Mom and baby in their den online at the Zoo's Panda Cam.

The San Diego Zoo's Giant Pandas are on a research loan from the People's Republic of China. As part of this long-term program, the Zoo is also collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Science in studies of behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in the Foping Nature Reserve.


San Diego Zoo's Panda Cub is Learning to Walk!


The San Diego Zoo released a video this week showing its Giant Panda cub learning how to walk! The 11-week-old Panda raised one front paw, followed clumsily by the other, lurched forward, and came to a stop. He was taking baby steps during a Thursday morning veterinary examination -- his ninth so far -- while zookeepers looked on. PK Robbins, DVM, San Diego Zoo senior veterinarian, describes the attempt to walk as "like a toddler holding onto the furniture."

Viewers of Panda Cam, the Zoo's 24-hour live online camera feed, may catch glimpses of the cub learning to walk. The unnamed Panda now weighs 7.2 pounds and is 21.6 inches long.

Just 1,600 giant pandas are believed to exist in the wild, and the species is primarily threatened by habitat loss. San Diego Zoo Global, in conjunction with Chinese panda experts, is working to support science-based conservation of the species. 
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Photo Credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo

The unnamed male cub is the sixth giant panda born at the zoo. His mother, Bai Yun, gave birth to a single cub in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and now to this cub on July 29. Five of them were conceived through natural mating. Only the first, in 1999, was the result of artificial insemination.  

San Diego Zoo Baby Panda Update!

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The San Diego Zoo's little Panda man is growing up! His eyes and ears are fully open now, so he's ready to take on the world. You can follow his growth in previous stories on You can also peek in on him every day through the Zoo's live panda cam here:

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Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo

See his 7th check up on the video below. The Giant Panda cub is quite used to being handled and clearly likes his chin scritches. The vets are pleased with his health and growth. He's eating well and now weighs 6.6 pounds (3kg).

UPDATE! Help San Diego Zoo Name This Panda Cub


The Panda cub at the San Diego Zoo that you first read about on ZooBorns on September 10 started to see the great big world around him. During an exam last Wednesday morning, animal care staff could see the cub's eyes beginning to open. That was right on track for this 45-day old male cub. It will take about another 20 days for the eyes to be fully open, but as you can see in the video below, taken on September 20, he's making progress!  Veterinarians believe he can see but is likely limited to viewing light and shadows.

Animal care staff are pleased with his growth. This exam revealed he now weighs 4.9 pounds (2.26 kilograms) -- nearly a pound more than he weighed during the last check up. His abdominal and chest girth show that he is nursing well from his mother, Bai Yun. But he's a wee bit sleepy during this vet exam... there are lots of baby panda yawns in the video!

Photo credit: Photo 1 Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Global, Photo 2: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo

As of September 17, the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy began taking name suggestions for the cub on its website. The zoo follows the Chinese cultural tradition of naming the Giant Panda after it is 100 days old. Names must be submitted in Chinese pinyin, which is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script, and significance of the name must be included to be considered. They are taking submissions until Monday, September 24.

Update! Baby Elephant at San Diego Zoo Gets a Name

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You may have first read about this new baby African Elephant born on August 28 here on ZooBorns. This little female calf at San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park has just been named! She will be called Qinisa, a Siswati word that means to act with energy, act determinedly, fulfill one’s word, or speak the truth. The name is pronounced (!) EEN-EE-seh (! is a tongue pop instead of a q sound).

Her name is very fitting, as Qinisa has developed fastest of the 12 calves born to the herd. At only one week old she was sucking water into her trunk and using it to pick up objects like sticks. Dexterity like that has not been seen at such a young age among the other calves according to Curtis Lehman, San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal care manager. The other calves only exhibited that skill after at least a few weeks of age.



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Qinisa seems to be spending the least amount of time nursing compared to the others, but she is getting more than enough milk from mom Swazi. Qinisa is averaging a weight gain of 2.2 pounds (1 kgm) per day, having gained a total of 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in her first 21 days of life. 

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Photo Credit: Sand Diego Zoo Safari Park

Beside her quick learning curve, keepers have also observed how other elephants interact with her --whenever mom allows it. Big brother Mac is playing nice; then again, he’d better, or Mom would have a word or two with him. The adult females only interact occasionally, since they know to keep their distance from protective Swazi, the herd’s matriarch.

But the zoo’s two young female babysitters, 6-year-old Khosi and 5-year-old Kami, seem to have the most access to the calf and continue to compete for babysitting rights. They stay with the trio of Swazi, Mac, and Qinisa overnight, so Kami has the upper hand to get more time. Swazi seems to now be taking advantage of the two baby-sitters and wanders away from Qinisa when she naps... but not for long. If Qinisa wakes, Swazi quickly returns to her baby.

It's a Boy! San Diego's Baby Panda Gets His Third Check-up


Last week, San Diego Zoo examined its five-week-old baby Giant Panda for the third time. Veterinarians determined that the 3.2-pound cub is a boy! He's a bit lighter in weight than mother Bai Yun's previous five cubs, but this baby panda looks healthy with a belly girth of 12 inches, indicating he is eating well. The 13-inch-long cub gained 1 pound from his previous exam a week earlier. San Diego Zoo follows the Chinese cultural tradition of naming Giant Pandas after they are 100 days old. Stay tuned as San Diego Zoo will be announcing details on how the public can help name the new cub. The cub will remain in the den with his mother several months. Watch them live on the zoo's Panda Cam:




Photo credit: Ken Bohn / Zoological Society of San Diego 


It's a Girl! African Elephant Newborn on Exhibit at San Diego Zoo

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Just hours after her birth on August 28, a baby African Elephant made her public debut at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The female calf was born at 3:39 a.m. to the Safari Park's matriarch, Swazi. The baby was on her feet within a few minutes of birth; her first tentative steps were captured on the video below. The calf was born on exhibit so when the Park opened at 9 a.m., guests were already able to see Swazi and her newborn!

Mom and baby are doing well and spending these first days bonding. They can be seen daily at the Park's elephant habitat or you can watch them live via the ElephantCam on the Park's web site or Safari Park iPhone app. The average gestation period for African Elephants is 649 days -- or 22 months. A newborn elephant normally weighs between 200 to 268 pounds (90-121 kg); this little calf weighed in at 205 pounds (92 kg). 

The Safari Park is now home to 13 elephants - 4 adults and 9 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled. A lack of space and long periods of drought created unsuitable habitat for a large elephant population in the small southern African country. At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, elephant studies are underway on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development and bio-acoustic communication. Since 2004, San Diego Zoo Global has contributed $30,000 yearly to Swaziland's Big Game Parks to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improve infrastructure and purchase additional acreage for the Big Game Parks. 

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Photo Credits: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo


San Diego Zoo Conducts First Exam of Giant Panda Cub

Photo credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo's newest Giant Panda cub received its first veterinary exam this morning.  The quick, 3-minute exam allowed staff just enough time to determine that the cub is healthy, thriving and weighs 1.5 pounds. Vets were able to listen to the cub's heart and lungs - which sounded good - but were not able to determine the sex.


The paws of this cub might be tiny now, but they will grow into one of the most interesting paws in the animal kingdom. Giant Pandas have a pseudo thumb, which enhances their ability to gather and eat bamboo. No other species of bear (yes, they are definitively bears thanks to molecular testing!) has this distinctive trait.


This is the sixth Giant Panda born at the San Diego Zoo, the most born at a breeding facility outside of China. All six Giant Panda births have been to mother Bai Yun. The previous cub born at the San Diego Zoo was a male named Yun Zi. Born on Aug. 5, 2009, his name means "son of cloud."

Spot On! Newly Born Jaguar Cubs at San Diego Zoo


One of two Jaguar cubs born at the San Diego Zoo on April 27 takes its turn on the scale. The 12-day-old cub, which weighs 4.2 pounds, is still too young to get on and off the scale on its own. The two unnamed siblings will remain in the den for a couple of months until they are able to walk outdoors on their own. Keepers have yet to determine the sex of the cubs. The pair are the first Jaguars born at the San Diego Zoo since 1989.

Although these two young cubs may look adorable, females can grow to 70 pounds while males can reach 120 pounds. Jaguars are the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest of the world's cats. The South American native word for Jaguar, yaguara, means "animal that kills in a single bound."


Photo credit: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo

Unfortunately, demand for the Jaguar's beautiful rosette-covered fur is one of the reasons this species is endangered. In addition, loss of habitat and the human-animal conflict have reduced populations of Jaguars throughout their range from North America through South America.

Twin Sumatran Tiger Cubs for San Diego Zoo Safari Park


These two Sumatran Tiger cubs were recently born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This is the 24th and 25th births of this critically endangered species for the Zoo. 

The cubs are still too small to leave their den and are being attentively raised by their experienced mother, Delta. On Thursday, keepers gave Mom a short break to stretch her legs and get a little sun while they took the opportunity to socialize with the cubs as shown in the video below. The 10- and 11-pound cubs are being desensitized to human touch in anticipation of vaccines and other necessary veterinary care.They are only just beginning to move around the den on their own paws. Keepers expect them to be more agile and ready to explore the outdoors in July.

Only about 400 Sumatran tigers are left worldwide. They're the smallest of the tiger species, but once grown, males can weigh up to 220 lbs. The San Diego Zoo is home to six Sumatran tigers and is fund-raising to build a new, forested tiger haven that will offer up-close views and highlight conservation efforts


Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo