Well this morning was a busy one at the breeding center. It looks like over the weekend all the female giant pandas decided to go into estrous at once. The hormones and behaviors of 8 females are increasing. That means that this week and next week will be very busy for me! The females that we have been watching the longest are Xi mei and Bai xue. Bai xue showed promising behavior for about two days last week but her hormones and behavior have never gotten to the point that indicates we should start a breeding introduction. However, because she was one of the closest to going into estrus this meant that I was watching her constantly last week during any spare time I had.
Bai xue means “white snow” in Chinese. I can’t say that any panda is truly white this time of the year because of all the rain, but she does tend to stay cleaner than many of the other pandas. I think it’s because she prefers to sleep on top of her bamboo in a curled up ball when she’s done eating.
Bai xue was rescued from the wild in TaiBai and moved to the Louguantai Wild Animal Breeding And Protection Center for the first year of her captive life. They estimate her birth to be around 1988 which means that, at around 24 years old, she is a very old panda . Pandas live to be about 14 to 20 years in the wild and up to 30 in managed care. She has been one of the successful breeders in captivity and has given birth to 10 pandas and has many grandchildren. As far as I can glean, her last cub was Jin Ke, a male panda born in 2009. We actually think that she may have gone into estrous very briefly and, thus, probably missed breeding her this year. She is so old that it’s not too much of a surprise that her estrous may be sporadic or gone entirely.
Bai Xue is one of the easiest pandas for me to recognize because she has a black mark across her nose. I’m told that this mark has been there since she was rescued so is probably not a scar from an old injury in the wild. She loves her water feature and most of the time will sit near it and drink. She has been pretty active and likes to talk to Lu Lu (her male neighbor) in the afternoons and early mornings.
Here’s hoping we didn’t miss her estrus but the keepers moved her away from the males today so I’m guessing they don’t have high hopes for a breeding this year. Next week I’ll do a male panda!