An Unforgettable Birthday Party for Mama Bear: San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Bai Yun Turns 24

Bai Yun  celebrated her 24th birthday with a tasty "cake" made of applesauce and apple chunks.

Bai Yun celebrated her 24th birthday with a tasty “cake” made of applesauce and apple chunks.

Excitement filled the air at the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek today as keepers and panda fans gathered to wish a happy 24th birthday to giant panda matriarch, Bai Yun (pronounced “by yoon”). The mother of six came out of her den to find a delicious slushy ice cake made with applesauce and filled with chunks of apples, carrots, and yams.

Animal care staff decorated her exhibit with gift boxes filled with hay and pine shavings. Bamboo feeders were scattered about, and staff sprinkled some of her favorite scents: cinnamon, wintergreen, peppermint, and spearmint, which she rubbed all over her face. Amused fans watched as Bai bounced on her swing, and licked up the delicious honey sprinkled there. Apples were also tossed into her pool and she had a fun time bobbing for them.

Keepers describe the birthday bear as a superstar. They say she was a curious, playful youngster, delighting the crowds with her acrobatic skills. Later in life, she proved what an amazing mother she could be, always taking great care of her cubs, playing rough-and-tumble games, and overall showering them with attention.

Bai Yun arrived at the San Diego Zoo in September 1996. Since then, she has helped researchers and keepers learn more about panda behavior, pregnancy, birth, and maternal care. She has given birth to six cubs: Hua Mei in 1999, Mei Sheng in 2003, Su Lin in 2005, Zhen Zhen in 2007, Yun Zi in 2009, and Xiao Liwu in 2012.

Bai recently returned to the front exhibit at Panda Trek after being under pregnancy watch for the past six months. After an exam last month, veterinarian staff confirmed she wasn’t pregnant. Bai is one of the oldest pandas known to have given birth.

The San Diego Zoo is home to three giant pandas: Bai Yun, her son Xiao Liwu, and her mate, Gao Gao. Giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China for conservation studies of this endangered species. To help San Diego Zoo Global lead the fight against extinction and to celebrate Bai Yun’s birthday, please consider becoming a Hero for Wildlife by making a monthly donation to San Diego Zoo Global’s Wildlife Conservancy at

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on Sept. 7, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo