Zoo celebrates panda birthdays with ice cakes
They're not just any siblings, they're panda siblings sharing a birthday. With only 12 pandas in captivity, this is a rare occasion that the zoo keepers and patrons all want to take part in.
There are only 1,600 pandas in the wild and just 12 pandas at zoos in the United States – one-third of those in San Diego. That means a lot of excitement can accompany the youngsters' birthdays, which the zoo celebrates every year. Many people entering the zoo made a beeline for the panda habitat yesterday morning.
By the time the pandas had torn into their 3-foot-high cakes, a crowd snaked throughout the exhibit, laughing at the animals' antics.
Still, it wasn't easy for Zhen Zhen to enjoy her day. She had to compete with her mother, Bai Yun, who repeatedly swatted away the youngster as she tore into the bamboo and ice-encased yams and apples that decorated the cake.
“That's maternal for Bai Yun,” said Lisa Bryant, San Diego Zoo's lead keeper.
As cubs have gotten older and began to vie for bamboo, Bai Yun has been known to grab the food while putting a foot in the younger panda's face.
Zhen Zhen is No. 4 for Bai Yun and, Bryant said, she has become a better parent with each new cub.
Despite her mother's attempts to hoard the cake, Zhen Zhen was not deterred. The 45-pound cub repeatedly climbed atop her cake, only to fall and comically roll to the ground, trying to regain her bearings to the delight of the devoted panda fans who laughed at every roly-poly tumble.
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El Cajon, California, United States