To give the endangered bears a chance to experience and play in their natural habitat, the San Diego Zoo blew over 15 tons of shaved ice over their exhibit Tuesday, March 19.
This was Xiao Liwu’s (or Mr. Wu, as he is called by his keepers) first experience with snow, as he was born in the summer to mother Bai Yun.
Xiao Liwu’s name means “Little Gift”, and his mother’s means “White Cloud.” As part of a long term captive breeding program, all giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo are on a research loan from China. Four of his siblings have already been relocated from California to China.
44 giant pandas currently live in zoos outside of China, the only place where the bears’ natural home/habitat exists. Researchers believe that captive breeding is an extremely important way to study and conserve this endangered species, as only 1,600 pandas are thought to be left in the wild. This is due to human activities creating habitat loss, low reproductive rates and is also being threatened by climate change. In the Nature Climate Change journal last year, a study found that global warming could potentially wipe out much of the pandas’ chief food source, bamboo, over the next 100 years.