A few days after the earthquake, I returned to the panda base and everything seemed pretty much back to normal. The pandas seemed to be behaving normally (sleeping and eating) although I did read a report that the younger pandas had a hard time dealing with the earthquake. My understanding is that Continue reading
It’s been a week since I’ve arrived in China and I already feel as though it has been the experience of a lifetime. I arrived in Ya’An on the 20th of March feeling extremely jet-lagged from the almost 3 day trip but within a couple of days was right on track and feeling much better. If I wrote in detail about all of my experiences this week, this blog post would be extremely long so I will try to keep it short.
My first week at the panda base was really hectic as Meg tried to introduce me to everyone while juggling data collection and explaining the usual routine. However, I feel as though everything went well and I’ve already learned so much that I feel like I’m definitely going to leave China with a wealth of knowledge about giant pandas and a profound understanding of the role breeding programs play in conservation. Just as I began to feel comfortable with everything, it was time to say bye to Meg, Nate, and Dee (their daughter) who went back home.
The panda base was very busy and this week alone I’ve met people from all over the world who came to visit the pandas. Some of them can tell the pandas apart just by looking at them – and I’m getting there! I’ll probably be able to distinguish the pandas from one another just in time for me to fly back to Canada! Here are some pictures that I’ve taken of the pandas:
As Nate mentioned earlier, Stephanie (our new intern) arrived just in the nick of time for breeding season to go into full swing. It’s as if the pandas new she’d be completely overwhelmed if they all went into estrous the first couple of days she arrived. We had four pandas go into estrous over the last four days and the weather decided to throw us some curve balls to boot!
Day 1: Stephanie arrived on the base to start scoring Su Lin and Yuan Yuan for pre-mating behaviors. Su Lin is a San Diego panda and this was her first year going into estrous.
Thanks to the Xinbin lab of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for analyzing our samples in record time. The results of the analysis completely surprised us. Every sample was nearly ten times lower than the World Health Organizations recommended limit.
This great news sparked us to take a further look as to why the levels are so low. At first glance, as was previously thought, the pandas are eating bamboo covered in deposited soot from a smog covered sky. You can rub your fingers over the bamboo and they come off black. What we discovered next explained the pandas clean bill of health.
I will reveal their secret in a future post as we get closer to writing up the results.