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Atlanta, Georgia

August 11-16, 2013

There has been a lot of news lately about the new giant panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta, so when I learned that I would be able to attend a meeting in Atlanta for work, my first thought was to see if I could fit in a visit to the zoo. I did know that I wouldn't see the cubs - the cubs and their mother Lun Lun have a quiet nursery area out of public view - but also knew that there were three other pandas there - and I'd never seen a panda, so....

I flew to Atlanta on Sunday, August 11, arrived at my hotel by noon - and was on the way to the zoo by 12:30! It was a beautiful sunny day - and the first creature I met was a Southern Ground Hornbill. I only had my little camera, so the fencing got in the way a bit - but she (I think - the website says females have a patch of blue under the chin) was handsome - and unusual, in my experience!

I was on a mission to find the pandas - but noticed that the keepers had invited one of the elephants to come in to say hello to the guests, so stopped in for a quick look. I'm not sure that I've ever seen one using its trunk up so close (all pictures click much larger, by the way).

I also went by the tigers - I think these are the twins who were born in July 2011. They were mostly lazing about (sort of like larger versions of our cats), but one did get up and nuzzle the other one, which the keeper said was a friendly greeting. I was impressed by the number of keepers on duty, giving little talks and answering questions (and allowing us to get closer than we could without someone to make sure people and animals were protected).

Next, just to build suspense - here's were the pandas weren't! The signs say "NO PANDAS HERE - There aren't any giant pandas in this habitat, but check the other outdoor habitat and the dayrooms - they're around here somewhere!" They do look like lovely areas for pandas to explore when it's a bit cooler - but it was quite hot that day, so I suspect the pandas were very happy to be spending their days in air-conditioned comfort!

When I first entered the panda building, I had to look twice to see where the panda in the first dayroom was - though the number of people clustered at that end of the viewing window was a clue! After a bit, I was able to get a close look at my first panda.♡ I think this is three-year-old Po (I'm almost positive - the person on duty said which was which, but I didn't take notes, and occasionally my memory plays tricks). After a while he got up and took a stroll around the enclosure - and even paused briefly in a place where the reflections were less intrusive, allowing me to get a nice close-up! By the way, there isn't an open door in the last picture in this set - it's a reflection from somewhere. I thought I had a few more pictures of Po - but it was hard to get a clear shot - and I was so enthralled watching him that I didn't always remember to take a picture.

Next I turned to the other dayroom (they're sort of at right angles, so you either need to stand way back, or move from one wall to the other) - and I didn't see anyone! But after I moved over a bit, I saw that Xi Lan (the five-year-old cub - or perhaps I should call him a young adult) was at a little door at the back of the dayroom. I've read about the pandas receiving treats through a door - so included the picture even though it's not very sharp. Then Xi Lan moved over and began to explore a large piece of bamboo (all pictures click quite large). I do know that pandas eat bamboo - and have seen decorative bamboo that large - but didn't realize that pandas ate bamboo that large! And it's possible that they don't eat a lot of it (probably perferring smaller, more tender stalks) - but if you look at the end of the stalk in the larger picture of him holding it up, and the end of the stalk as he walks away - it looks to me as if there's a bite missing!


After watching for a while, I moved along - the viewing space is not that large, there were a lot of people who wanted to see the pandas - and there were many other animals I wanted to see! The journey continues on Page 2.