A male giant panda at the San Diego Zoo chews on “panda cupcakes” that were part of an ice and bamboo cake celebrating his birthday. Yun Zi, who will be three years old on August 5, received the first of his birthday treats this morning. Animal care staff will be celebrating his birthday with guests at the San Diego Zoo all weekend long.
The two-tiered cake was made from ice with treats frozen inside. The tiers of the cake were supported by bamboo stalks. The “panda cupcakes” were made from yams, gelatin and a type of herbivore biscuit that is a usual part of the panda’s diet. The creators of the cake also included a “3” on the lower tier and used bamboo leaves to spell out “Yun Zi” in the top tier of the cake.
The birthday boy ate most of the cupcakes first, then knocked over and tore open the boxes of presents filled with more food items. He moved on to eating bamboo in one of his perches, presumably waiting for the cake to melt a bit, making it easier to get to the rest of the treats.
Weighing about 180 pounds, Yun Zi is the fifth panda born at the San Diego Zoo. Giant pandas are on a research loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China. Only 1,600 giant pandas are believed to exist. The species has been challenged by habitat destruction, low reproduction rates and bamboo shortages. The San Diego Zoo, in conjunction with panda experts in China, is working to conquer these challenges.
For the past few days all eyes have been on the newest baby panda born at the San Diego Zoo, but on Wednesday, it was another panda’s turn to shine.
The zoo kicked off giant panda Yun Zi's birthday week with a special two-tiered cake made of ice and topped with “panda cupcakes” made from yams and ground herbivore biscuits. Yun Zi’s name was spelled out in bamboo leaves on the second tier of the ice cake.
Yun Zi officially turns three years old on Sunday and zoo staffers have an eventful week of special birthday activities planned for the lucky panda.
Yun Zi was born in 2009 and is at the San Diego Zoo on a research loan from China.
In three years, the panda has grown to weigh 180-pounds, according to zoo officials.
Last year – during his “terrible twos” phase -- zookeepers described the playful panda as rambunctious, smart and a little destructive.
During his second birthday last year, Yun Zi memorably knocked over his birthday cake just moments after zookeepers presented it to him, as if throwing a mini toddler temper tantrum.
This year, the more mature three-year-old ate his cake like a big boy, starting with the cupcakes before tearing open some surrounding presents that were also filled with food.
Zookeepers said he then moved on to eating bamboo in a perch, presumably waiting for the cake to melt so he could continue eating his treats more easily.
Yun Zi will continue sharing the limelight at the zoo throughout the week with beloved new mommy Bai Yun, who famously gave birth to her sixth panda cub on Sunday.
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Published at 10:27 PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012