What It's Like to Take Care of Panda's
Huang Shunjie might just have the best job in the world. The 24-year-old spends each day caring for 18 panda cubs at the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center outside China’s central city of Chengdu. He prepares their meals of bamboo and milk formula, checks on their growth and health, and carries these two-tone fluff-balls between their sleeping pens and the cooing of their public enclosure.
“The best part is that I can get very close to the baby pandas, which makes many people jealous,” he says. “I get to hug them all the time.”
Among the brood are two record-breaking recent additions. He-He and Mei-Mei — a brother and sister whose names translate as “harmony” and “happiness” respectively — celebrated their first birthdays on July 25 as the only twin pandas born from a wild father and captive mother. It’s a vital breakthrough that broadens the genetic pool and thus longterm sustainability for the bears, which were among the world’s most threatened animals until recently.
“Mei-Mei is very cute and clingy,” says Huang, a native of Sichuan province who graduated in construction engineering before finding work as a panda photographer and then zookeeper. “But her brother is very naughty. He is one of the wild kids and loves making trouble.”
There are, of course, downsides to any job. In Huang’s case, it’s the regular bites and scratches he receives from 45-55 pound bears still exploring their own strength — as well as the lingering pong of panda poo. But it’s a small price to pay to dote daily on these epitomes of roly-poly cuteness up close. Every shift is a succession of tumbling off toys, balancing on heads, or generally lolloping around like furry toddlers.
“I’m a full-time daddy for these fluffy baby pandas,” says Huang. “If I take some days off to go home, I feel empty inside. If I can’t hear them bleating, if I can’t see them, it feels like life is not real.”
For many years, giant pandas, which are native to China, were one of the world’s most endangered creatures as unbridled development decimated their natural habitats in bamboo forests. These famous vegetarians must eat 30 to 85 pounds of bamboo every day.
But population numbers have recovered in recent years thanks to intensive breeding programs using artificial insemination. In 2016, pandas were downgraded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature from “endangered” to the less acute “vulnerable” category. Today, there are 1,864 pandas in the wild up from only 1,114 in the 1970s, according to China’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration, two-thirds of which live across 67 dedicated nature reserves.
Swelling numbers have also allowed China to send more pandas overseas, earning Beijing soft power points. “Panda diplomacy” began in the 7th century when China’s Tang dynasty Empress Wu Zetian dispatched a pair of pandas to Emperor Tenmu of Japan. Today, over 50 pandas live in 18 different countries.
Most famously, Mao Zedong sent a pair of pandas — Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing — to the U.S. following Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972. More recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin with two pandas for Moscow Zoo just last month. “When we talk about pandas, we always end up with a smile on our faces,” Putin said.
Panda diplomacy is typically a 10-year loan, costing the host nation some $1 million annually, with the proviso that any offspring remain the property of the People’s Republic. The loans often coincide with trade deals but, if bilateral relations deteriorate, don’t expect these ambassadors to stick around. In 2013, China threatened to reclaim pandas lent to Austria after Vienna welcomed the Dalai Lama.
The vicissitudes of geopolitics are of little concern to Huang, though. His greatest joy comes from the fact the pandas he cares for end up raising environmental awareness and bringing joy to millions of adults and children around the globe. “I’m really proud of that,” he says.
At the closed zoo in Hong Kong due to coronavirus, pandas have begun to mate for the first time in 10 years
Two giant pandas, male Le Le and female Ying Ying, have been living in Ocean Park for 14 years. For the past ten years ministers have tried to coerce them into intercourse, but to no avail. And only now, when there were no more visitors, the instinct of reproduction woke up in animals.
The zoo is closed from the end of January. In March, as the employees note, the behavior of the pandas changed - the male began to look for the smells of the female and mark the territory.
A big panda cub (which usually lives in the mountainous regions of central China) was born in the Ouwehands zoo of the Dutch Renen (Utrecht province), according to a press release on the zoo's website.
It is noted that the cub was born on Friday, May 1, he, like his mother, feels good. The sex of the cub is not yet known, because they try not to disturb him. According to France Press, this is the first birth of a big panda cub in the Netherlands.
"At present, Wen’s mother and her cub are left alone. When the cub leaves the mother’s den after a few months, we can find out what gender it is. When this happens, the little big panda will have a name," the zoo said in a press release.
The big panda cub belongs to China - just like its parents Wen and Sin Ya. He can stay in the Netherlands for four years, after which he will be transferred to the People Republic of China.
In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified large pandas as vulnerable species. Prior to this, the organization attributed them to species that are endangered.
At the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, a giant panda named Mei Xian gave birth to a cub on Friday. This was reported on the zoo's website. According to his employees, mom and baby are doing well.
Specialists will voice the sex of the newborn a little later. It is noted that the artificial insemination operation took place back in March.
Pandas are very demanding on the conditions of detention and practically do not breed in captivity. Mei Xian became the oldest giant panda in the United States and the second in the world to give birth to offspring. Previously, she already became a mother three times.
The giant panda is a rare animal listed in the Red Book and an unofficial symbol of China. They live in the mountainous regions of central China: Sichuan and Tibet. These animals actually eat only bamboo, only occasionally including other types of plants in their diet. An adult panda eats up to 30 kg of bamboo and shoots per day.
Two Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo. are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.
Two Pandas are expected to be returned to China from Canada's Calgary Zoo - because of a shortage of bamboo.
Canada has a limited supply of bamboo which could run out very fast.
The Calgary Zoo closed temporarily on March 16 amid the pandemic, reports Xinhua news agency.
Direct flight between China and Calgary, a city in the western province of Alberta have been canceled.
The zoo said it tried to find new bamboo suppliers to feed the pandas, "Er Shun" and "Da Mao", but came across many logistic issues.
"We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access," Calgary Zoo President and CEO Clement Lanthier said.
The two pandas arrived in Canada in 2014 as part of a 10-year agreement between Canada and China over the animal's protection and research.