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My one-in-a-million photo

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During my first panda volunteer trip, to Wolong Panda Centre in September 2007, there were four pandas I knew and was up close with, the three I was helping to look after – Ling Ling, Hai Zi and Xi Xi – and my adopted panda, Feng Yi. I made sure to ask the names of the pandas I was looking after; years from now, I wanted to remember not just that I helped look after pandas, but who they were. There were also others I knew by name (from the Web) but did not actually see, or if I saw them, did not know who they were.

During my free time, I would walk around the Centre, look at the other pandas and photograph them. In my photographs from that trip is a set showing pandas in outdoor yards on the other side of the breeding centre. I had worked at the breeding centre (aka maternity ward after the breeding season) as Hai Zi was in confinement there, and Xi Xi was thought to be pregnant and was living there, too. The yards were connected to the rooms in the maternity ward, so these pandas in the yards were either new or expecting mothers.

I recently showed these photos to a good friend who has a knack for recognising pandas. She identified each of these pandas to me. Among them was a panda who would never be photographed again. I got three photos of this panda, and here’s my favourite, and probably my one-in-a-million photo.

Unknown to me at the time, I had photographed Mao Mao who will never be photographed again because she died in the 2008 earthquake that devastated a big part of Sichuan Province and caused extensive damage to the Wolong Panda Centre.

This photograph was taken on 9 September 2007. Wen Yu, her last cub, was born 15 days later on 24 September 2007.