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Xing Xing & Liang Liang, the star pandas at Zoo Negara. Image: zoonegara.org.my
Pandas, why are we so fanatical with these fuzzy creatures? It’s not just because of the blockbuster animated film franchise, Kung Fu Panda, or if you are a ‘90s kid (like myself), you probably watched The Amazing Panda Adventure, the 1995 family film a zillion times on your VCR. That movie motivated me to be a veterinarian or zoologist (never happened, clearly) because of the prevailing storyline of a young boy visiting China who aids his zoologist father save a panda cub from deceitful poachers while his panda reserve is threatened with termination from bureaucrats. Riveting stuff, we know.
The panda enclosure at Kuala Lumpur's Zoo Negara. Image: thestar.com.my
Besides the myriad of 9gag posts or YouTube videos of delightful little pandas slipping down slides, or getting affectionately wrangled by their zookeepers or leaping due to food being stealthily thrown at them, we can all agree that these exotic animals are gawk-worthy.
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you would also have heard word that Zoo Negara Malaysia finally has Giant Pandas. The eight-year-old pair’s, Xing Xing and Liang Liang (previously known as Fu Wa and Feng Yi), arrived in Malaysia last year as a sign of harmony and a representation of a diplomatic relationship between China and Malaysia for 40 years.
The Giant Pandas will live in Malaysia for the next 10 years under the care of local zookeepers and veterinarians. Xing Xing and Liang Liang were accompanied by a vet and a zookeeper from China, Dr Li and Mr Yang, to firmly ensure that the bears settle well and are hale and hearty in their new enclosure. They have also trained the employees in the zoo on the behaviour of these animals, their husbandry and strategy for the next decade. The two charming pandas have gotten used to their new reserve, the Giant Panda Conservation Centre, which is situated near the Ape Centre. One can very easily identify the bears by just looking at the bears’ black eye patch. Xing Xing’s eye patch is shaped in a figure eight whereas Liang Liang’s eye patch is near-perfect oval.
The adorable Xing Xing and Liang Liang. Image: klcoconuts.co
The arrival of these Chinese furballs will absolutely draw foreign visitors and tourists to pay a visit to the zoo, plus give local Malaysians an opportunity to view pandas up close without flying to another country. Zoo Negara also hopes that the Giant Pandas will help generate publicity for Malaysia’s very own bear species, the Malayan Sun Bear.
Want to Spend a Whole Day with These Adorable Pandas?
If your answer is yes, Zoo Negara is turning that unassuming premise of spending a whole day with these pandas into the selling point of their latest visitor-side activity involving its two adult pandas. This is called the Giant Panda Keeper Programme, which kicked off March 13 allowing visitors to experience what it’s like to care for these threatened mammals.
Some of your responsibilities would comprise of preparing the pandas’ food to even cleaning out their enclave at regular intervals. Doesn’t sound all that glamorous, but you will get to experience something unique and incredible just by preparing the “panda cakes” which contain carrots, apples, and bamboo shoots for the pandas’ meals, keeping their enclosure clean and monitoring the general wellbeing of these creatures under the observation of accredited zoo officials from GPCC, the Giant Panda Conservation Centre.
Here’s the catch, only three visitors aged 16 and above will be able to sign in for the programme daily, and they will work from 8am to 4pm.
Caring for pandas at Zoo Negara. Image: mystar.com.my
Malaysian visitors will be charged RM150 to register for the programme, while foreigners will be charged RM300. The total cost includes breakfast, lunch, an official t-shirt and a certificate of participation from the zoo. Those who are interested in joining the Giant Panda Keeper Programme can touch base with Zoo Negara's Education, Public Relations and Marketing Department at 03-41083422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Xing Xing & Liang Liang's baby panda cub. Image: thestar.com.my
Panda lovers can now view Xing Xing and Liang Liang together with their baby cub all day. The two pandas previously set a world record for being the first pair to naturally reproduce within a short period of time while in captivity. It would typically take eight to nine years and most conceptions in captivity are through insemination. Born last year on August 18, the cub is developed enough to join its parents for public viewing pleasure. The mother Liang Liang has been described as very motherly, immediately licking and caring for the baby as soon as she was born.
Based on the Malaysia-China Giant Panda International Conservation Agreement, the panda cub can only stay in Malaysia for two years and must be sent back to Chengdu, China, the hometown of Xing Xing and Liang Liang after two years have passed.
Panda cub at Zoo Negara. Image: nst.com.my
Here is a video of Giant Pandas, Xing Xing and Liang Liang at Zoo Negara:
The RM25 million panda complex features three main exhibit areas which are consistently kept at less than 24 degrees Celsius to mimic panda natural habitat.
The enclave of a vibrant yellow and green 1.6ha complex includes an exercise area, holding den, laboratory, veterinary clinic, incubator room and monitoring room.
The zoo has cultivated bamboo fields to ensure enough food supply for the next decade.
Bamboo has already been growing in a 10ha field in Paya Indah Wetlands Park, while another 6ha field was identified in Putrajaya Wetlands Park.
How can we help or get involved?
Zoo Negara is managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society, a non-governmental organization that persists mainly through its gate collections and sponsorship from individuals, schools and corporate companies. All the animals are up for adoption and you may support the zoo through adoption, that is by maintaining annual food, enrichment and veterinary care for the zoo animals. In return, donors receive tax exemption on the amount sponsored and should donors cover the whole cost, the zoo will also put up a sponsorship plaque at a minimal fee.
Panda family at Zoo Negara. Image: thestar.com.my
To find out more on Zoo Negara and these adorable pandas, CLICK HERE