- Created on Thursday, 18 October 2012 20:35
- Written by Imperial Valley News
San Diego, California - The San Diego Zoo's 11-week-old giant panda cub raised one front paw, followed clumsily by the other, lurched forward, and came to a stop. The cub was taking baby steps during a Thursday morning veterinary examination.
PK Robbins, DVM, San Diego Zoo senior veterinarian, describes the attempt to walk "like a toddler holding onto the furniture." The cub's physical development is on track for a panda at his age, she said.
The male cub lunges forward with his front legs, but his rear legs are not yet strong enough to support his weight. The cub can only take a few steps before he rests. Although he may be able to walk on all four legs in a few weeks, it will still be at least a few more months before he is mobile enough to venture on exhibit.
San Diego Zoo scientists are monitoring the cub's development by studying his behavior and classifying what they see based on an ethogram used for the six panda cubs born at the Zoo. In this context, the cub's first steps are termed "clumsy walking." The scientists have observed the cub, through a closed-circuit camera, becoming more active in his den over the past week.
Viewers of Panda Cam, the Zoo's 24-hour live online camera feed, may catch glimpses of the cub learning to walk. Those watching have already pointed out that he scoots around the den. Visit www.sandiegozoo.org/pandacam to watch.
The unnamed male cub is the sixth giant panda born at the San Diego Zoo. The cub's mother, Bai Yun, has given birth to a single cub in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and to this cub on July 29. Five of Bai Yun's cubs were conceived through natural mating. Only the first, in 1999, was the result of artificial insemination.
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.
Only 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, continues to work on science-based panda conservation programs.
The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global manages the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Centers, San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Breeding Facility, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, and a 800-acre biodiversity reserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.