Bai Yun: Forever Young

It is hard to believe our mama bear, Bai Yun, will be 27 years “young” this Friday September 7!

What really amazes me about Bai Yun is that she never seems to age; that’s her at about five years old in the picture above. For every birthday we have celebrated with her, she has retained her beauty and vibrant self, truly a timeless ‘cover girl’ panda!

Bai Yun with her first born (and first surviving cub in the US, born in 1999) Hua Mei in 2000. Hua Mei now lives in China and is a mother—and grandmother—herself!

This year for decorations to mark the day, we are doing a very basic “scrapbook” of Bai Yun memories throughout the years she has lived with us. Some of the items you will see on her birthday are hanging papier-mâché objects with various bamboo and panda designs. We also have a papier-mâché piece painted with white clouds reminding us that her name Bai Yun means “white cloud” in Chinese. In addition, we will have burlap pillows showing the six cubs this super-mom has raised, her name Bai Yun, and the number 27 for her age. Some of the items will be daubed with her favorite scents, and of course we’ll provide boxes holding her favorite treats for her to delight in ripping into! for her to rip open! As a novelty for Bai this year, we will be making some bamboo bread cupcakes, each adorned with a carrot topper.

Bai Yun has given birth to and raised six cubs, remaining an energetic and engaged mother each time. Her she is with her son Yun Zi in 2009.

Giant panda birthdays at the Zoo historically have been a very special event for our guests and the keepers. We celebrate not only the panda’s birthday, but also how far we have come in helping to raise awareness of the species as well as what we can do to help them in the wild. The collaborations between China and the United States has truly been a “team effort” to ensure that this beloved treasure from China will never become extinct.

So please join us this Friday September 7—in person or via Panda Cam—and celebrate 27 years our Bai Yun has been a true ambassador for her species!

Kathy Hawk is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.