A few days ago we have let our red pandas outside for the first time

A few days ago we have let our red pandas outside for the first time. The female wasn't much impressed but the male was flabbergasted: wide open space, deep snow, and even birds flying overhead! He was running around for a good hour, jumping around and snow bathing, and then fell asleep immediately. Before letting pandas outside, we brought some snow into their enclosure. Again, the male was much more interested than Zayn, although she has also exhibited some activity. According to Irina Alexeicheva, head of Small Mammals department, after acquainting with snow pandas started marking their territory more frequently. Zayn became more aggressive and started chasing the male - but after a little while they both were sleeping together quite peacefully.

 

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Quite surprisingly, pandas get easily scared not by a sudden loud noise but by a rustle, be it a soft murmur of dry bamboo, a bag crinkling, or running water. At first, it was difficult to clear Zayn's enclosure, because the smallest rustle terrified her, and she started panicking and hid somewhere (of course we tried not to make loud noises). By now they are used to people, but they still get agitated when they hear something rustling – who knows, maybe their genetic memory stores the noise that a snow leopard makes when working its way through bamboo thicket.

Irina Alexeicheva told us about some difficulties they face when feeding pandas.

-         At first, we gave Zane bamboo from our greenhouse, but she did not like it and almost went on a hunger strike. Mind that in the wild pandas’ diet is 95% bamboo (the rest is fruits, berries, mushrooms, moss, birds’ eggs, small mammals, and lizards). Panda’s wide multiconed grinding teeth and strong chaps are ideally suited for chewing bamboo. They even have a «false thumb» for holding bamboo shoots that is an extension of the wrist bone. However, pandas are carnivores, not herbivores, and their bodies take up only a small amount of nutritives from bamboo, as it is very difficult to digest. That is why pandas have to eat a lot (they consume about 2 kg of bamboo leaves per day), sleep a lot (to preserve energy), and feed for 13 hours a day. Of course, we feed pandas fruits, carrots, and pumpkins, but still they need a lot of bamboo for digestion.

-       So we faced a problem: how to make Zayn eat bamboo? And we came up with an idea: we powdered bamboo with blender and put it into her food. After that things got better. Now we’re getting bamboo from Sochi – climate there is much more mild, and the bamboo grows outside. Pandas love it! It is delivered twice a month: we freeze it in a special freezer, unfreeze before feeding, and it’s almost as good as new. Zayn prefers young leaves.

-          Everything seemed perfect, but then one day bamboo wasn’t delivered, and we had to give Zayn bamboo from the greenhouse. She ate a bit, felt a different taste, and started spitting! Once she had tasted good bamboo, she didn’t want to deign to greenhouse! It’s hardly surprising: just remember juicy summer tomatoes and compare them to pale winter ones.