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How to Make Bamboo Bread for Pandas

Gao Gao thanks you from the San Diego Zoo.

Pandas eat a diet mostly of bamboo, but it’s a rather abrasive plant. As an aging 25 year old, the San Diego Zoo’s panda Gao Gao (pronounced like cow cow with a g) has a mouthful of worn teeth. To help him out, zoo nutritionists came up with their own recipe for a tasty panda bread that would be easier for him to eat—and easier for them to feed to him.

It’s definitely a labor of love, since it takes quite a while to make the bread. First, volunteers strip bamboo leaves from their stalks. A research associate then dries and grinds the leaves. Zookeepers mix the ground leaves with primate biscuits and steam it into balls. They then hand them over to Gao Gao, who snacks on them at his leisure.

Of course, panda does not live by bread alone. Gao Gao also eats cracked bamboo stalks, sliced sweet potatoes, straight primate biscuits, and sliced apples, which are sometimes dressed with his favorite treat of all, honey.

Gao Gao lives with two other pandas, 24-year-old female Bai Yun (by-yoon), and their 3-year-old son Xiao Liwu (sh-yow lee woo). Their habitat has trees and climbing structures, as well as bedroom with AC, where Gao Gao’s been spending a lot of time during California’s heat wave.

You can also catch Gao Gao and his crew on the San Diego Zoo’s pandacam.