Sichuan, China When I first saw all five cubs, they looked the same. I couldn't imagine how the keepers knew which was which. But after spending four weeks with the delightful darlings, I have discovered that the cubs have their own physical traits, and each has a distinctive behavior pattern.
The oldest twins, Bing Xin and Bing Dian, look identical at first glance. But a closer look reveals distinguishing characteristics.
Although both have short, pudgy snouts, Bing Xin's is just longer enough to be noticed. And while they were born minutes apart, Bing Dian is slighter and shorter than his twin. In fact, part of his name comes from the fact that he was born so petite. "Bing" comes from his mother, Bing Bing, and "Dian" means "a little" in Chinese.
The twins also have different personalities. Bing Xin spends most of the day sleeping and climbing, while Bing Dian amuses himself with irritating his mother. While the twins are energetic, they don't compare with the females.
Born only three days after the males, Cheng Gong and Cheng Ji are much more active. Cheng Ji loves to play in the tile basin in the exhibition room and won't let the other girls near it -- she's sort of a basin "Queen of the Hill."
Cheng Gong is vivacious in a different way. She likes solitary play, and often amuses herself for hours with a piece of bamboo or an apple core.
The female twins also are physically similar to a degree. Both have long, slender snouts, but Cheng Gong's is longer and pointier. They can also be distinguished by their fur. Cheng Gong has a break in the black fur on her back, while Cheng Ji's fur is solid.
Although Cheng Gong and Cheng Ji are 10 times more lively than the boys, they can't match the group's troublemaker -- Liang Liang.
Liang Liang is my favorite cub, and not only because our names are similar. She is the oldest, born Aug. 16, 2000, and the most mischievous.
She doesn't listen to us and often blatantly disobeys us. When we want her to go outside, she will cling to her cage or turn continuous somersaults to prevent us from picking her up. Her roguish behavior, and similarity to me when I was younger, makes her the one I'm going to miss the most.
-- Lynn Feng, 17, will be a senior in the fall at Free State High School.