Feature: Giant panda couple, turning 16, prosper under tender care of Malaysian keepers

(Xinhua) 08:24, August 24, 2022

Zookeepers prepare birthday treats for giant panda Liang Liang at Zoo Negara near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug. 23, 2022. Giant pandas Xing Xing and Liang Liang celebrated their 16th birthday at Zoo Negara near Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Xing Xing and Liang Liang, arrived in Malaysia in 2014, have given birth to three giant panda cubs. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Asper bamboo shoots are carefully measured, weighed and sliced. Apples, pears and carrots are cleaned and put aside while eggs, soybean, corn, rice and calcium powder are mixed together with corn oil to make "cakes".

These are some of the treats prepared every day for the giant pandas at the Giant Panda Conservation Center (GPCC) of Zoo Negara in Malaysia, but this Tuesday is special: Xing Xing and Liang Liang are turning 16.

Crowds of panda fans, students, and especially families with kids took their time off on a work day to celebrate the birthday of the panda couple in Zoo Negara.

They have prepared banners and other decorations, including panda-shaped balloons, photographs, paper cut-outs and other panda-themed items, and diligently decked out the visitor walkway to greet the panda couple.

Everyone was watching eagerly as the panda carers set up birthday treats consisting of bamboo shoots, watermelons, apples, grapes and other fruits along with ice cubes.

GPCC assistant supervisor Akmal Hadi Samsuddin, nicknamed "Panda's Nanny Daddy" on social media, considers the pandas a part of his own family.

Akmal, 38, has been taking care of the pandas for eight years since the first day of their arrival. He believes that ensuring the pandas receive the best food is a priority in order to keep them as healthy and as fertile as possible.

"While the bulk of their diet consists of bamboo leaves and shoots, they are supplied with various supplementary food including panda cakes and fruits," he told Xinhua.

Akmal also said that while harvesting bamboo for the pandas is difficult, which often means having to face mosquitoes and even snakes in the bamboo forest, it is worthwhile for him and the rest of the team.

"It's like we are harvesting the bamboo for our own kids to eat, so we are willing to do it. It's our kind of sacrifice," he said.

Zoo Negara Deputy President Rosly Rahmat Ahmat Lana said that in order to ensure the pandas would feel comfortable in Malaysia, when the pandas were still in China, they had sent several samples of local bamboo to China for the pandas to try.

"We sent seven types of (Malaysian) bamboo to China to make sure which one they love to eat. And then also, we want to make sure we can afford to have local bamboo to feed them," he said, adding that the temperature at the GPCC is also carefully controlled to match their home climate, ensuring they have a healthy appetite.

"Every day, we look after their hearts, their mood, their appetites, their teeth and we also have to check their blood to make sure they're in good health," he said.

GPCC director Mat Naim Ramli said among the most important aspects of the health of the pandas is ensuring that their teeth are well maintained by alternating the types of bamboo fed to them as well as ensuring it is cut into easy-to-eat pieces.

"That's why we cut (bamboo) into small pieces so we can protect their teeth. This is important because if something happens to their teeth, it will affect the feeding intake," he said.

Naim hopes the panda couple will stay here in good health condition, stay safe, and produce more cubs "as many as possible" in the future. Xing Xing and Liang Liang have produced three cubs since their arrival in Malaysia in 2014: their first Malaysia-born giant panda cub Nuan Nuan on Aug. 18, 2015, their second, Yi Yi, on Jan. 14, 2018, and Sheng Yi on May 31, 2021. 


(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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