Stress Busters

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Trip Update

Filed in Stress Busters, Travels

We’re at the tail-end of Mollie’s “Great Panda Adventure”. We were in Fuzhou on 16 and 17 August to see Basi, Long Fei, Lin Yang and Zi An, and in Bifengxia Panda Base between 18 and 24 August for her to see her San Diego “babies” – Hua Mei, Mei Sheng and Zhen Zhen.

Since there would be no access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube while in China, I thought I would be updating via my blog. But just before I left for the trip, I learned about a Facebook feature that allows photos or videos to be emailed to a Facebook user’s account. So I activated the feature and used it to email in some photos. As a result, I did not use my blog to update about the trip.

Mollie finally got to see her babies again – Hua Mei after 7 years, Mei Sheng after 4 years and Zhen Zhen after nearly a year. Her fourth baby, Su Lin, is in old Wolong with her own newborn cub.

I got to see my adopted daughter, Gong Zhu, and her 2010 cub (from a distance, he was up in the trees).

We also got to see the usual Bifengxia attractions, including the cubbies. Usual for me, but Mollie’s very first time.

We also participated in the 1st Joint Birthday Celebration of Wolong’s Overseas-born Pandas on 21 August. 21 August was also Hua Mei’s 12th birthday; it was the reason Mollie visited Bifengxia at this time of year – to celebrate Hua Mei’s birthday.

There were 6 birthday cakes for each of the 6 overseas-born pandas – Hua Mei, Mei Sheng, Fu Long, Tai Shan, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen. A total of 6 keepers and 18 volunteers participated in the event, with 1 keeper and 3 volunteers per cake (decorating and presenting to the panda). Each of the 5 pandas in Bifengxia got their cakes while Su Lin’s cake went to the four cubs in the same “neighbourhood”. I asked for Mollie and I to be allowed to do Hua Mei’s cake. And so we got to deliver the cake into her enclosure and to watch her come in and … reject the cake. Instead, she was more interested in the bamboo platform that supported the cake.

More photos here.

The celebration was covered by the local media, and we appeared on the local TV news, becoming “international media stars”. Here’s the coverage.

We’re off to Chengdu very early in the morning to try and see Atlanta-born Mei Lan at the Chengdu Panda Reserve. And then, it’s homeward-bound, me to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, and Mollie to San Diego, California.

She’s here

Filed in Stress Busters, Travels

Personal photographer to the San Diego Zoo’s giant panda family, Mollie Rivera (aka Rita Petita on Flickr) arrived in Fuzhou at 12:22 p.m. this afternoon.

She’ll be visiting Basi and gang at Fuzhou Panda World and her babies Hua Mei, Mei Sheng and Zhen Zhen in Bifengxia Panda Base.

And yes, I’m here, too, arrived around 10:45 p.m. yesterday night. I have to be here, or I wouldn’t be posting this.

Precious black and white screencaps

Filed in Stress Busters

Fans of American-born giant panda Tai Shan were thrilled to discover there’s now a daily webcam showing him in Bifengxia Panda Base, China. At first, there was some confusion as many people thought this is the webcam that Pandas International has been trying to set up for a while now (with funds donated by Mara Strock). Pandas International has now confirmed that this is a different webcam from the one they’re setting up; no matter, the more Tai Shan webcams, the better!

Unfortunately, the webcam is not very stable. Many fans have reported not being able to get the cam to work, despite following instructions to upgrade to the latest version of the Java plug-in. Fortunately, their daily Tai Shan “fix” has been provided by other fans who have been able to view the cam and have done screen captures to share online.

But this is not a blog post about the Tai Shan screencaps, but another set of screencaps.

A recent Tai Shan screencap showed a keeper I’d met in Wolong in 2007. I had not see him again until my March 2010 trip to Bifengxia; in the aftermath of the May 12 earthquake in 2008, he had remained in Wolong as a part of a small group of keepers to look after seven cubs born in 2007. The reason for keeping the cubs in Wolong was to encourage those who were still in Wolong after the earthquake (more on this later).

Seeing this keeper in the screencap reminded me of all the Wolong earthquake images that we’ve become so familiar with. However, there are some Wolong earthquake images that we might not have seen before.

During my September 2010 trip, I’d purchased a DVD on Wolong’s earthquake story released by the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Panda (CCRCGP), the Government admin department that oversees both Wolong and Bifengxia. In addition to the familiar earthquake images, the DVD also has a section on the seven cubs that had remained in Wolong, and their keepers. I realised I’ve never seen any pictures from this part of Wolong’s earthquake story. Other giant panda fans may not have, either, so I spent some time doing my own screencaps to share online.


Temporary housing for the 7 pandas that remained in Wolong for a year after the earthquake


Born in the same year and “classmates” in the Wolong kindergarten, they got along fine in their temporary home


A heartwarming screencap that showed them at a favourite activity – eating ‘boo!


The temporary panda home was open to the public


An “earthquake” cub coming up to say hello to two young visitors


Info board showing the weight of the 7 pandas; the top row shows the dates of their weigh-ins


The keepers bringing the cubs indoors

This section of the DVD has this to say about the seven cubs:

6km away from the ruins of the Wolong Panda Research Center, we come to the temporary shelter for the 7 pandas that remain. The pandas that remain were all born in the same year and grew up together. Despite suffering different degrees of shock, with tender love and attention from the caretakers, they are all in good health.

The Road Home
CCRCGP DVD on Wolong’s earthquake story


Yang Haidi, the keeper I saw in the Tai Shan screencap and who I’d met in Wolong in 2007, is also interviewed in this section of the DVD

The local people all care deeply about the pandas and people from all over the world also come to see them and are especially kind to them. After the quake, it wasn’t just us taking care of them but they also gave back to us a kind of inner strength. The fact that they are surviving so well is a great encouragement for us. Because the pandas haven’t gone, our hope is still here, all of Wolong’s hope is still here. After the relief effort comes the rebuilding process and we have every confidence in ourselves.

Yang Haidi
Giant panda keeper

They’re “home”

Filed in Janis Ian, Stress Busters

I see them whenever I’m driving. But they were displaced recently when I sent in the Corolla and forgot to bring them home with the Vios.

Here they are, in a new, but familiar, place – on the windscreen, driver’s side.

My Janis Ian “Truth is not the enemy” and FONZ stickies.

Thanks to Kong, Sales Advisor at Toyota Subang Jaya, for keeping them safe until I went by to collect them last Saturday.

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!