L.A. Unleashed

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Category: Pandas

Your morning adorable: Giant pandas play on playground slide

Pandas play around a 

slide at a zoo in Shanghai, China. Six female and four male pandas from the 

Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan arrived Tuesday to spend six months 

at the Shanghai Zoo and then six months at the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo.

The young giant pandas transported to the Shanghai Zoo this week to participate in the World Expo certainly seem to be settling in nicely!  According to Shanghaiist, the zoo has taken some impressive measures to ensure a smooth transition for them, building "a new, palatial panda house for its temporary residents and its regular three pandas. In addition, the zoo has outsourced two new plots of bamboo around Shanghai, as the local varieties of chute are different from those in Sichuan." 

The pandas -- six females and four males from the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan -- were all born after the devastating earthquake that hit the province in 2008, and their presence at the World Expo serves to illustrate the point that China's panda-breeding program has successfully bounced back from the calamitous event. They're expected to remain at the Shanghai Zoo for six months, then they'll spend another six months at the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo before returning home to Sichuan.

Weird science: Genome mapping suggests giant pandas may eat bamboo because they can't taste meat
The Year in Cute: 2009's 20 most adorable animals

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo credit: Associated Press

Giant panda cubs travel to Shanghai for World Expo


BEIJING — Ten giant panda cubs, all born after the deadly earthquake that hit China's Sichuan province in 2008, were on their way Tuesday to Shanghai to go on display during this year's World Expo, a zoo official said.

Six female and four male pandas from the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve Center in Sichuan were to arrive Tuesday evening to spend six months at the Shanghai Zoo and then six months at the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo, said a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Zoo. Like many Chinese officials, she would give only her surname, Tan.

All 10 of the pandas were born at Wolong after a massive earthquake struck Sichuan in May 2008, showing that the breeding process there is back on track after the reserve was nearly destroyed. The quake killed or left missing nearly 90,000 people.

The Shanghai Zoo, which already has three older giant pandas, has refurbished its panda house to accommodate the new arrivals, including an indoor and outdoor complex that will include a slide, wooden climbing devices and walkways, and a grassy knoll for lounging, Tan said.

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The Year in Cute: 2009's 20 most adorable animals

Regular readers of L.A. Unleashed may be familiar with our addiction to adorableness and, in a related note, with our regular feature, Your Morning Adorable. (Naysayers and grumps may scoff, but we ask you: What better way is there to ensure a great day than by starting it off with a photo or video of an adorable animal? We can't think of one, and that's including coffee.) That being the case, we don't mind telling you that we've looked at a lot of adorable animals this year. We took this year-end opportunity to remember 20 of our top favorites; without further ado, here they are:

Adorabletiger #20: White tiger cub drinks from a bottle
Aschersleben Zoo, Germany

This little fellow, born at Germany's Aschersleben Zoo this past spring, might have a milk mustache -- but how could you tell? 

Contrary to popular belief, white tigers (like those seen in magic shows protested by PETA) aren't albinos; instead, they have a genetic condition that affects the pigment in their fur, causing it to be light-colored rather than the typical orange. 

White tigers do have stripes -- obvious ones, like those you see on this cub, or sometimes so light in color as to virtually disappear. But they're there; we promise. (A true albino tiger wouldn't have any stripes at all, but, if you'll pardon the pun, that's a horse of a different color.)

See more photos of this thirsty fellow in our June 5 installment of Your Morning Adorable.

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Your morning adorable: Giant panda cub Yun Zi explores at the San Diego Zoo


The San Diego Zoo's resident giant panda cub, Yun Zi, is becoming more self-assured as he grows -- enough so, in fact, that he ventured out of his indoor enclosure Monday to frolic with his mother, Bai Yun, in the great outdoors. 

Prior to Monday, Yun Zi had shown himself to be something of a homebody, preferring the comfort of the den he shares with Bai Yun to the adventures he might find outside.  His older siblings -- brother Mei Sheng and sisters Hua Mei, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen -- differed in this respect, according to Suzanne Hall, the zoo's senior research technician. "Here we are in the middle of December, and our littlest panda seems blissfully unaware that our data indicates ... panda cubs are beginning to spend more time outside of the den by the time they are his age," Hall wrote last week on the zoo's blog.  "But then again, I am not sure that Yun Zi has read our notes on the matter."  (Good point.)

Although he doesn't often choose to do his exercising outside, Yun Zi (whose name translates to "Son of Cloud") is full of vim and vigor, zoo staff report.  At his most recent veterinary checkup, his handlers couldn't even get him to sit still long enough to take his length measurement!  (They were able to learn his weight -- 18.1 pounds, somewhat larger than his older siblings were at his age.)

Your morning adorable: Yun Zi, San Diego Zoo's giant panda cub, is becoming a handful
San Diego Zoo's giant panda, Bai Yun, gives birth to a healthy cub

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Ken Bohn / Associated Press

Weird science: Genome mapping suggests giant pandas may eat bamboo because they can't taste meat

Panda Genome mapping showing that pandas may prefer a bamboo-based diet because they can't taste meat could unlock secrets to ensuring the survival of the endangered species.

The findings published in Nature magazine come from a study led by the Beijing Genomics Institute's branch in Shenzhen in southern China.

The study found that pandas probably roamed the Earth as far back as 3 million years ago, with a genetic makeup that evolves more slowly than that of humans and other mammals.

"We hope the information gathered from mapping ... our 3-year-old female panda will aid in their conservation efforts," study co-author Wang Jun said Monday from Shenzhen.

Mutations in certain sequences of the giant panda's taste gene, which can affect the ability to experience savory flavors such as meat and other high-protein foods, may have turned them to a strict bamboo diet, the study said.

Further findings from the panda, named after the Beijing Olympics mascot Jingjing, suggested the decline in the giant panda population was not caused by inbreeding, because her DNA in various cells differed in many places.

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Pandas Down Under: Wang Wang and Funi move from China to Australia's Adelaide Zoo

Australiapanda1 ADELAIDE, Australia — Australian and Chinese officials urged two bamboo-munching giant pandas on Sunday to consider reproducing during their 10-year residency Down Under.

Wang Wang and Funi, on loan from China, arrived at the Adelaide Zoo two weeks ago but were officially welcomed Sunday by leaders at the opening ceremony of their $8-million (Australian, $7.25 million U.S.) enclosure. Their exhibit will open to the public on Monday.

"Look after yourselves, keep healthy and active, eat your greens and maybe, when the time is right, think about starting a family," Gov. Gen. Quentin Bryce said in a speech directed at Funi and Wang Wang, who were sprawled against nearby boulders, chewing bamboo shoots. "There are not enough of you in this world."

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai said he was already thinking of Australian names for a possible panda cub.

"Wang Wang and Funi carry the friendship and greetings from the Chinese people," he told the gathering, explaining that Funi means "Lucky Girl" and Wang Wang means "Net Net."

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National Zoo prepares to bid farewell to Tai Shan, giant panda born there in 2005

Tai Shan

A young giant panda who became a major draw after his birth at Washington's National Zoo will leave for China early next year for breeding.

Zoo officials announced Friday that Tai Shan (pronounced "ty shawn") will be leaving the Smithsonian Institution park as soon as January or February.

Panda mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and father Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) are on a 10-year, $10-million loan to the zoo until December 2010.

Under the Smithsonian's panda loan agreement, any cub born at the zoo must be returned to China for breeding. Tai Shan was born in 2005 and was granted a two-year extension in 2007.

Panda cubs are also slated to leave the zoos in Atlanta and San Diego.

There are a total of 14 pandas on loan from China in U.S. zoos in Atlanta, Washington, San Diego and Memphis, Tenn. Under its agreements with the zoos, China loans panda pairs for breeding and conservation research. Any cubs those pandas produce are also property of China and must become part of the country's breeding program.

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Your morning adorable: Yun Zi, San Diego Zoo's giant panda cub, is becoming a handful

Panda cub

If there's one thing we're thankful for this Thanksgiving, it is adorable giant panda cubs like Yun Zi, one of the San Diego Zoo's youngest residents. Yun Zi recently reached the age of 100 days, a milestone for giant panda cubs. (In accordance with Chinese tradition, panda cubs can't be formally named until they reach that age.)

Yun Zi's name translates to "Son of Cloud," an homage to his mother, Bai Yun, whose name means "White Cloud."  After the cub's most recent checkup Tuesday, keepers reported that he's becoming a bit of a handful; they had to use both hands to keep him from walking off the examination table! 

Yun Zi and Bai Yun are currently being kept in a den separated from the rest of the zoo's panda population; they'll remain there until the cub is about 5 months old. (Panda fans eager to get a glimpse of the cub in the meantime are encouraged to visit him virtually via the zoo's online Panda Cam.)

Your morning adorable: San Diego Zoo's giant panda cub does a push-up
San Diego Zoo's giant panda, Bai Yun, gives birth to a healthy cub

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Ken Bohn / AFP/Getty Images

San Diego Zoo's giant panda cub gets a name


The suspense is over: In a ceremony Tuesday, San Diego Zoo officials announced the recently selected name of the giant panda cub born there in August. (In accordance with Chinese tradition, the cub couldn't be officially named until he was 100 days old.)

The zoo held a contest to allow members of the public to submit name suggestions for the cub, a healthy male born to mother Bai Yun and father Gao Gao.  Once the submission period closed Oct. 19, zoo staff members selected their five favorite names from more than 6,000 offered by panda fans, which then had to be approved by the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Assn. 

That done, the zoo turned once again to the public to decide on the cub's name, allowing visitors to its website and Facebook fan page to cast their votes for one of the five  finalists: Xiao Long ("Little Dragon"), Xiong Wei ("Extraordinary Bear"), Fu Sheng ("Blissful San Diego"), Yong Xiang ("Eternally Blessed") and Yun Zi ("Son of Cloud"). 

According to the zoo, nearly 18,000 votes were received during the voting period, and the winning name received 28% of the vote.  That name is...

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Your morning adorable: Walk like a man, giant panda

An 18-month old giant panda is 

trained to walk on its hind legs to build strength ahead of the crucial mating 

season at a wild animal rescue and research center in Zhouzhi county in 

northwestern China's Shaanxi province.

How do you prepare giant pandas for mating season?  Well, if you're the staff of the Shaanxi Wild Animal Rescue and Research Center in China's Shaanxi province, you start by strength-training.

So how do you strength-train a panda?

Apparently, you teach him to walk on his hind legs, a mode of locomotion he probably wouldn't try on his own. The method may seem strange, but we're not inclined to scoff -- after all, giant pandas are so endangered that it's believed there are fewer than 2,000 of them left in the wild, so any effort to help the species survive seems worthwhile (even if it does look a little odd).

After the jump, check out more photos of this fellow, an 18-month-old male, getting the hang of walking upright!

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