Bamboo buffet: Food for hungry pandas is grown in backyards

Bamboo buffet: Food for hungry pandas is grown in backyards

March 19th, 2018 by Associated Press in Local Regional News

Dylan Sailors, a member of the Zoo Atlanta bamboo team, hauls bamboo into a clearing in Atlanta. Georgians are growing bamboo in their backyards to help feed the pandas at Zoo Atlanta.

Photo by Ian Palmer

ATLANTA — Georgians are growing bamboo in their backyards to help feed the pandas at Zoo Atlanta.

Bamboo makes up 98 to 99 percent of pandas' diets, WABE Radio reported.

In this Jan. 12, 2007 file photo, Giant Panda panda mother Lun Lun , right, eats bamboo as her cub Mei Lan explores her new habitat at Zoo Atlanta. Zoo Atlanta said in a news release Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, that its veterinary team obtained an ultrasound image from Lun Lun confirming the presence of a second fetus. Lun Lun, who turns 19 on Thursday, was artificially inseminated in March. Her pregnancy was confirmed Aug. 16. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

In this Jan. 12, 2007 file photo, Giant...

Photo by John Bazemore

The zoo's pandas consume an enormous amount of it — more than 200 pounds between all four of them together — every day.

"When pandas are eating, that's when they're happy," said Kenn Harwood, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo, watching as Yang Yang, a 20-year-old male, sits in his enclosure, legs splayed out in front of him, munching thoughtfully on a pawful of leaves.

"For lack of a better term, he's a big goofball," Harwood said. "He's everybody's favorite. He's a great guy. He's about 300 pounds. Eats a lot of bamboo a day."

The zoo's bamboo team harvests it from Georgia yards. Team members cut about 400 pounds a day from neighborhoods all over Atlanta and as far away as Dahlonega.

They use only hand tools such as loppers and handsaws — no motors or gas.

The bamboo team was in a Roswell yard on a recent morning, harvesting the yellow groove bamboo the pandas like best, the radio station reported.

"We're always looking for this variety," said Miles Kendall, lead tech of Zoo Atlanta's bamboo team, as he ducked into a thicket of bamboo to slice down the tall stalks.

This backyard in Roswell has a good amount of yellow groove bamboo, so the Zoo Atlanta team has come here several times.

To donate bamboo to the zoo, a homeowner can ask the bamboo team — they have a "bamboo hotline" — to come check out what's growing. If it's a type the pandas like and if there's enough of it, the bamboo team will come out and harvest it. There are more than 20 different kinds of bamboo in the Atlanta area, zoo officials said.

Don't worry about a bamboo shortage, officials said. Bamboo is pretty weedy.

"It's like kudzu," he said. "Grows fast and takes over."


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