Taking to the Trees
January 22 — February 20, 2006
Tai Shan scent-marked for the first time in late January. This is something the keepers had not expected the cub to do for several more months. Just outside the keeper area, he lifted his tail, squatted and rubbed the gland on his rear end along the ground. This leaves a sticky secretion that smells very interesting to pandas. Giant pandas scent-mark often to communicate information about identity, location and seasonal availability.
On January 30, Tai Shan climbed a tree for the first time (prior to this, protective metal sleeves kept the cub from getting in over his head). Having explored every inch of ground outside, he was content to play in his new "jungle gym" for hours, climbing as high as 18 feet. At the end of the day, a keeper had to distract him while another climbed a ladder to get him down. In the wild, cubs climb trees to stay safe from predators while their mothers are off eating bamboo elsewhere. A mother may leave a mature cub in a tree for one or two days.
On February 12, Tai Shan experienced his first snow. He tasted it, played with it, climbed the blanketed trees and tumbled about with Mei Xiang, who — like all giant pandas — loves the snow.