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San Diego Zoo Celebrates Panda's 3rd Birthday

giant pandas, endangered species
Yun Zi turns three on Aug. 5, 2012 (Image credit: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

San Diego Zoo's male giant panda Yun Zi got a special treat for his third birthday: "panda cupcakes" and an ice and bamboo cake celebrating his birthday.

Yun Zi turns three years old on Aug. 5. Animal care staff will be celebrating his birthday with guests at the San Diego Zoo all weekend long.   Yun Zi's 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 (82 kilograms), 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, according to a zoo statement. 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.

The zoo recently welcomed a new cub on July 29, which was the sixth cub for mother Bai Yun.

Live Science Staff
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