Reed Travel Features
SAN DIEGO -- She's only 5 years old and already weighs 213
He's a few pounds heavier and is believed to be at least six
Together they are San Diego's newest visitor attraction.
Bai Yun, the female, and Shi Shi, the male, are giant Chinese
pandas now on view and being studied at the Panda Research Center
at the San Diego Zoo.
The pair are on loan from the People's Republic of China for the
next 12 years.
While they have Bai Yun and Shi Shi, the world-renowned San
Diego Zoo's veterinary scientists will study the animals' habits,
diet and behavioral patterns with a view to developing a
conservation program for the rare creatures.
The zoo's giant panda research center is not exactly a
run-of-the-mill animal enclosure.
It was created at a cost of $1.3 million by a group of
architects, curators, veterinarians, nutritionists and
Solitary creatures by nature, the pandas have areas of the
enclosure that allow them to get away from the gaze -- however
adoring -- of humans.
Their public display area, moated in order to separate them from
viewers, is planted lushly with trees, grass and bamboo, their
They have exercise yards, gardens and indoor bedrooms.
Live trees, dead stumps, a waterfall flowing into a shallow
wading pool -- the animals' living quarters are as faithful to the
real thing as it is possible to get.
And Bai Yun and Shi Shi appear to be thriving since their San
Diego debut late last year.
But, then, why shouldn't they?
They never had it this good in the wilds of China.
In addition to giant pandas, about 4,000 birds, reptiles and
other creatures call the San Diego Zoo home.
The facility is open daily at 9 a.m. Entrance fees are $15 for
adults, $6 for children between the ages of 3 and 11.
For more information, call (619) 234-3153.