December 28, 2010
While at the Shaanxi Wild Animals Rescue and Research Center I took care of two pandas Zhu Zhu (female) and Ding Ding (male), both adults who had both successfully bred and had babies. Each day my duties consisted of cleaning their cages twice a day and feeding them twice a day. Each panda has their own suite of cages, which is attached to their outdoor garden area by a tunnel. When we clean the indoor cages we lock them into an adjacent cage because as cute as they are their teeth and claws can do serious damage to us. Many a time Zhu Zhu was in a playful mood and would try to swipe my mop or broom through the bars. One time I left the basket of bamboo leaves and poop too close to her cage and she picked it up and shook it out undoing the 30 minutes of work I had just done. Everyday, twice a day, we came in and picked up all the old bamboo, then swept up the old leaves and poop (which is basically just reconstituted bamboo and has no smell) and then once a day we mopped the cage with a mixture of water and as my panda handler called it “magic cleaning medicine” which I’m pretty sure from the smell was just bleach.
My favorite time of the day was the two feeds. In the morning we fed them a handful of apples, a piece of panda cake (a cake made of vegetables and vitamins) and then a special milk formula made with water, powdered milk and raw eggs. We also give them plenty of bamboo to munch on all day, but they really love the apples and get very excited at feeding time. Their teeth are very sharp and sometimes they get over excited and can bite so I was not able to hand feed them, but for Zhu Zhu my handler gave me a bamboo stick and I was able to spear the apples and feed them to her that way. Zhu Zhu loved having to apples at a time and when I gave her them she would sit down with one in each hand and smile before gobbling them down. Ding Ding loved his panda cake and would let me break it into little pieces and toss it into his open mouth, which was fun, but my aim isn’t great and he would eventually get frustrated so I always ended up just giving him the whole loaf after a minute or two. They were both wonderful pandas and I miss them both very much!