Georgia Power teams up with Zoo Atlanta to feed Giant Pandas

Georgia Power and The Timber Company are teaming up to help feed Lun Lun and Yang Yang, Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas, officials announced at the zoo today. Both corporations have agreed to allow Zoo Atlanta access to all of their properties, totaling a whopping 1,080,000 acres statewide, to cut and cultivate bamboo to feed the panda pair.

Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas are offered up to 375 pounds of bamboo each day – sometimes more. That’s almost 5½ tons of bamboo every month! The finicky bears’ taste for different species of bamboo changes frequently, keeping Zoo Atlanta’s commissary staff on a constant search for various bamboo groves across the state of Georgia.

“Since there are over 200 species of bamboo that grow in Georgia, we were not sure which type the pandas would prefer,” explained Gloria Hamor, Zoo Atlanta’s commissary manager. “Since their arrival the pair has settled into a seasonal pattern and are eating four different species depending on the time of year. During late fall and winter the pandas primarily ate river cane, but have now switched to arrow since the weather is warming. We now understand their preferences and the commissary staff is concentrating on finding groves of those species in sufficient quantities to supply the pandas’ needs.”

As the commissary staff searched for groves of the pandas’ favorite stalks, they found that there was an abundance of the preferred bamboo growing on Georgia Power land in Ballground, Georgia. In response to hearing the zoo’s needs for access to such bamboo, Georgia Power agreed not only to let Zoo Atlanta cut the bamboo in Ballground, but on all of the 80,000 acres of land that the company owned statewide.

“We take great pride in managing our lands in a way that is beneficial for public use and for protecting our wildlife. Allowing Zoo Atlanta to harvest bamboo on our lands to feed the pandas is in keeping with our status as a Georgia Forestry for Wildlife Partner,” said David Ratcliffe, president and CEO of Georgia Power. “We are pleased to be a part of the Panda Power Project and provide a source of energy for Lun Lun and Yang Yang, two of Georgia’s favorite citizens. We look forward to continuing this partnership for many years.” The sites where bamboo is being harvested for the pandas will feature a sign on the fence, indicating that the bamboo grove inside is for providing “Panda Power.”

The second major company to step forward in the search for good bamboo was The Timber Company, a separate operating group of Georgia-Pacific Corporation. They have provided the Zoo Atlanta commissary staff access to nearly 1 million acres of land across the state of Georgia. Donald L. Glass, president and CEO of The Timber Company, said, "We were pleased to allow the zoo to harvest bamboo on our lands. The corporation has a long-standing relationship with Zoo Atlanta, and we are proud to be part of this exciting Panda Project. Providing fresh wild-cut bamboo from our timberlands is a good example of using our natural resources wisely."

The generous contribution of access to their bamboo groves is the newest partnership with Zoo Atlanta for both companies, who each have a long history of supporting the nonprofit wildlife park and conservation organization.

Working with Georgia Power and The Timber Company foresters, Zoo Atlanta’s commissary staff has already begun to assess the quantity and type of bamboo available on their land. Georgia Power foresters supplied zoo commissary workers with maps with the stands of bamboo plotted on them.

Both companies have not only agreed to allow Zoo Atlanta to cut bamboo from their properties, but to also cultivate new bamboo growth to ensure a continued supply of the pandas’ primary food. The properties managed by these corporations boast a strong supply of some of the pandas’ preferred bamboo, allowing Zoo Atlanta to keep up with the pandas’ everchanging tastes.

In addition to cutting and cultivating the bamboo on Georgia Power and The Timber Company land, Zoo Atlanta is also creating a bamboo farm in metro-Atlanta. Manny and Karen Vohman have generously donated land on which the zoo will plant, cultivate and harvest several bamboo species. To aid in the building of this bamboo farm, Zoo Atlanta is seeking the support of individuals and businesses to provide both financial and equipment donations.

To date, The Home Depot, Kersey Forestry Services, New Holland and several national foundations have extended their support to this project. If you are interested in donating to the bamboo farm project, please call 404-624-2807.

If you have bamboo on your property that you would like to donate to Zoo Atlanta’s giant pandas, please call the Bamboo Hotline at 404-624-5884. A member of Zoo Atlanta’s commissary staff will help assess your bamboo, if it is right for Lun Lun and Yang Yang the zoo will arrange a time to cut it and transport it to the panda habitat.