The pandas in captivity at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC and in the wilds of China have both celebrated big milestones this past week.
In Washington Bao Bao finally left his mum, Mei Xiang and is living independently. This mirrors wild behaviour of pandas.
It has taken six months of work for keepers working towards this day. They have been taking their cues from Bao Bao and Mei Xiang. For the past several weeks they have been spending six hours a day apart. As they have become more comfortable with this keepers began working on getting them to spend nights apart. Over Friday and Saturday night a member of the panda team stayed with the pair till 10 p.m. They monitored the pair for signs of anxiety while they were separate. Just before the keeper left they would let them back together just to be on the safe side.
On Sunday night it was crunch time. Keepers decided to separate them all night. A panda biologist was present for the whole night but neither seemed to mind the separation. Bao Bao was even happy to play with some of the new toys she had been given.
Keepers have declared the process a success though they will be nostalgic for when Mei Xiang and Bao Bao would spend all their time together they are happy to see the pair thriving on their own.
Meanwhile in China the latest giant panda survey results were revealed. A 16.8% increase in panda numbers since 2003 has been announced which is wonderful for this endangered species.
In fact these guys are “the only species of bear listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and an icon for species conservation, it’s vital for scientists to keep monitoring the wild population of giant pandas. Every panda counts,” explained Steve Monfort who is director of the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute. “We’re encouraged that the wild population has increased 16.8 percent to 1,864 pandas and not experienced a decline since the 2002 census. Building upon four decades of collaboration with our Chinese colleagues, we’re continuing to build scientific partnerships focused on habitat management, wildlife health and training the next generation of conservation scientists.”
The Smithsonian National Zoo is working in China to help save the giant pandas. Priorties for their work include creating corridors between panda reserves, reforesting habitats, curing disease and working with government agencies to improve management of all Chinese wildlife.
You can watch the Bao Baos and Mei Xiangs antics on the zoos panda cam here –
Photo Credits: Smithsonian National Zoo