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Pandas delighted by 'snow day'

By William Hennelly in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2015-11-19 12:07

 Pandas delighted by 'snow day'

Xiao Liwu, a 3-year-old giant panda, dips his paw into artifi cial snow at the San Diego Zoo in California on Nov 14. The snow was made possible by donors to the zoo's online Animal Car Wish List, with the objective being an enrichment experience for the animals in a natural environment. Provided to China Daily

San Diego Zoo gives Xiao Liwu and his mom a frosty 'play day'

They're pandas, not polar bears, but they enjoy a romp in the snow like anybody else, even in sunny California.

Pandas on loan from China at the San Diego Zoo got a surprise on Nov 14 when artificial snow, some 16 tons of it, was blown into their den.

A zoo video shows 3-year-old Xiao Liwu, whose name means "little gift" in Chinese, frolicking in the snow and playing with a ball. His mom, Bai Yun, also participated in the fun. The snow was even more of a treat, considering that temperatures in Southern California hit 76 degrees that day.

"We periodically offer different kinds of enrichment items for the animals in our care," Christina Simmons, a spokesperson for the zoo, told China Daily. "For animals that would naturally see snow, we like to offer them snow as a possible play-day experience."

"The snow was part of an important enrichment surprise for the pandas," the zoo said in a release. "Enrichment is significant, as it keeps the animals stimulated and active, allowing them to show their natural behaviors."

The snow was made possible by donors to the zoo's online Animal Care Wish List. The list is an online gift registry of sorts for animals at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Xiao Liwu, incidentally, got his name after 35,000 people voted online in a contest in 2012. The other contending names were Qi Ji, which means miracle; Yu Di, which means raindrop; Da Hai, which means big ocean or big sea; Yong Er, which means brave son; and Shui Long, which means water dragon.

The zoo collaborates with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in studies of behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in China's Foping Nature Reserve. Only around 1,600 giant pandas are believed to exist in the wild, after decades of habitat loss. San Diego Zoo Global works with Chinese panda experts on science-based panda conservation programs.


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