Stress Busters

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Happy Birthday, Gong Zhu!

Filed in Stress Busters, Travels

My beautiful Princess

She’s 14 today and I got to be with her this birthday.

I’d adopted her in September 2008 after my first volunteer trip to Bifengxia Panda Base in August that year. I’d helped to look after her for a week during that trip. After I returned home, I thought about it and decided to adopt her.

Mystery solved

Filed in Friends, People, Stress Busters

I’ve been wondering which keeper from Bifengxia accompanied Yang Guang and Tian Tian to Edinburgh Zoo, and now I know.

Scott with Edinburgh Zoo’s Head of Giant Pandas Alison McLean and Pambassador Jeroen Jacobs (Photo:

Scott Xie Hao is a seasoned giant panda keeper and American-born giant panda Mei Sheng’s first keeper when the black and white furball returned to Wolong in 2007. Scott worked for a while in the admin offices in Bifengxia and also spent some time in Old Wolong as part of the “re-introduction to the wild” team.

Ever since my 2008 visit to Beijing to see my adopted panda Feng Yi and the rest of the “Olympic 8″ team, I’ve been interested to know which keepers are sent to accompany pandas on loan to other zoos in China and overseas, mainly to see if I know the keepers, and also to assure myself that the pandas are in good hands.

In the case of Edinburgh Zoo, I am assured that Yang Guang and Tian Tian are in the good hands of an experienced and gentle keeper who will share his knowledge with their new keeper.

Good to see you again, Scott!

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