Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Panda eats shoots and leaves

Mei Xiang, Pregnant Giant Panda
Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington DC

Okay, now I'm done with the history tales of DC. The highlight of the trip was anything but a stone/marble/granite structure.

It was these furry, black and white, playful little Giant Panda pair at the National Zoo. Ever since reaching DC, I had wanted to see the pandas and when I was told that the female panda was pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t leave DC till I made a trip to the zoo.


Mei Xiang (female) and Tian Tian (male) are not only the star attractions of the Smithsonian Zoo (National Zoo) but are also being watched closely by people across the world. Because of their ‘endangered species’ status, Mei Xiang’s pregnancy has got people very excited about the birth of one more Giant panda and she is being observed through a live feed every minute of the day. A fully-equipped observatory has specially been put in place for them as well as a simulated temperature controlled environment to ensure no difficulty for the expecting mother. Though I wonder what difficulty would a Panda have, given that statistically, it spends 90% of its time only eating bamboo!

Yessir, 90%! And they put up a good example of that while we were there. Except that they had a little more luxury and while Tian Tian modestly stuck to bamboo, Mei Xiang (probably in one of her pregnancy cravings) munched on carrots and apples too.

Clockwise from top left: 1.Queue Area 2.Tian Tian eating bamboo 3.Mei Xiang eating bamboo
4.Mei Xiang breaking for water 5.The panda research station 6.Tian Tian getting irritated with the camera lights
When she did take a break from eating, she climbed up the rocks, went down to the stream of water, took a few gulps and then resumed her place back on top of the hill to continue eating bamboo!

Tian Tian meanwhile, in typical male characteristic, decided to put up a dramatic show for his audience (deny all you want, but men are definitely more dramatic). He first came up to the glass to look at the visitors, then plonked himself on the floor on his back and covered his eyes with his hand to indicate being blinded by the flashlights from the cameras. When his audience didn’t leave him alone, he rolled around a little and made cutesy faces. After every minute, he would peek over his arms to see if people were gone, and finally sulkily rolled sideways to show his back to the thoroughly amused spectators!

If you’re feeling bad about not being able to see them, here’s a little consolation –the live Panda webcam that has a direct live feed from Mei Xiang’s quarters at the zoo -