Once again we took our hour bus drive to the panda base. This was the first time we saw people out in the fields working. It was apparently time to harvest the crop. On the way home we saw rice grain bundled like small corn stalks, about 18 inches high. Back at our seminar room, we continued inputting the data we had collected over the past few days. Then off to clean up the breeding cages. This time we had Mei Sheng, the famous male panda who had been born at the zoo in San Diego and then returned to China. He was shepherded out of his cage before we could enter.
Frances and I split up. I did the sweeping while she, the experienced virologist, insisted on doing the poop patrol. She was in heaven. There in a corner she found a round blob of yellow mucous with a tiny while round worm in it. It looked to me like a small lentil. "This panda is sick," she declared and went off to find one of the facilitators to report her discovery. The trip would have been a success for Frances if we had left immediately after that.
With the cleaning completed, Mei Sheng came back into the cage and we began our observation.
Lunch at the cafeteria. Some of the group forego what is the spicy dish of the day but Glenda and I get it. It doesn't seem at all hot once we push aside the red peppers. Apparently they haven't had time to season the rest of the dish.
In the afternoon we return to the kindergarten area outside.
This time they have their milk brought to them while they're playing. Like puppy dogs, they sense it's time for feeding, and run to the gate where the keepers are bringing in their milk. But now there's a problem. One of them spots the open gate as the keeper comes through and tries to run out. I come from behind, grabbing her around the middle and lifting her to carry her back into the yard. But now I discover, this isn't the little stuffed panda toy I had as a child. This is a 45 pound dead weight. I can't move. Finally one of the keepers rescued me. Now it was milk time but the keeper could only bring in one bowl at a time. This didn't go over well with my panda, Zhang Zhang (double name for good luck) who was second in line. Ready for milk, she moved over to the other panda's bowl. And there was another tussle. The keeper, just returning to the enclosure with my panda's milk, handed me the bowl, grabbed my panda and moved her to another part of the yard while I thrust the milk bowl I was holding under her nose. Satisfied, she settled down to lapping at her own bowl.
We played with them for a while, then had to leave but continued playing with them through the fence.