2010: An exceptionally black and white year

Filed in Personal, Stress Busters

This year marks my 10th year as a giant panda lover. It was in February 2000 when I fell in love with a 6-month-old giant panda cub making her public debut in San Diego Zoo.

Hua Mei was that 6-month-old giant panda cub. She returned to China in 2004. I first saw her in San Diego Zoo in 2001, and it was another six years before I saw her again in 2007, this time in Wolong. I have seen her every year since then, and it was only fitting that I would once again see her on our 10th anniversary.

She turned 11 in August this year, and is the mother of 8 – three pairs of twins (2004, 2005 and 2007) and two single cubs (2009 and 2010).

Beautiful Hua Mei (March 2010)

Pausing at the door to decide whether to go out to her yard

She’s quite a poser

This year also saw my adopted giant panda, Feng Yi (who I’d named Yoong Ping) turn 4. I’d adopted her when she was a month old in September 2006. I first saw her during my 2007 Wolong trip. In 2008, she was one of 8 giant pandas chosen to live in Beijing Zoo as part of the Beijing 2008 Olympic 2008 attractions. I flew there to see her after my annual trip to Bifengxia in August that year. A year later, she was back in Bifengxia and I saw her there in May 2009. In December 2009, she was sent to Guilin Zoo with another panda, Mei Xin.

Since I adopted her, I’d never celebrated her birthday for her. This year, I was determined to do so, and my determination paid off.

Enjoying the pool in her yard the day before her birthday

Official 4th birthday portrait – Feng Yi / Yoong Ping, 23 August 2010

There was another black and white birthday celebration I attended this year. Fuzhou Panda World celebrated the 30th birthday of their star panda, Basi.

Basi enjoys a close relationship with Ms See, her keeper of 20 years

I got my picture taken with the two special ladies

But it was also a sad black and white year. We lost six giant pandas during the year – Chuang Chuang in Shanghai, #20 in Jinan, #21 in Xiamen, Shui Ling in Shanghai, Kou Kou in Kobe (Japan) and Lang Lang in Nanjing. Of the six, Lang Lang’s death affected me the most. He was my photo pal during my 2007 photo session in Wolong. He was only 4 years 4 months when he died on 16 December 2010.

Lang Lang (25 August 2006 – 16 December 2010)

In other news, I had a short story published in The British Council’s A City of Shared Stories Kuala Lumpur.

I also published a photobook of Tai Shan’s public debut in Bifengxia Panda Base.

Proceeds from the photobook go towards Pandas International’s Wolong Earthquake Fund. Please order your copy here!