Gearing Up for a Panda-mount Journey
From climate control to panda cakes, creature comforts will ensure an enjoyable journey to Singapore for the duo giant pandas
Issue: May 2011
Kai Kai and Jia Jia with River Safari curator Ang Cheng Chye and Head of Veterinarians Dr Serena Oh during the Singapore team's study trip at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda in Sichuan
Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen
Even though Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the giant pandas from China, will only come to Singapore early next year, no effort has been spared in preparing for a comfortable journey for the duo. After all, it is rightfully their virgin flights. The fuss over the nitty-gritty details has already begun – from custom-made crates, to in-flight conditions and meals; all is in order to prevent any jitters along the way.
The giant pandas will be coming to Singapore as part of a 10-year collaborative panda conservation programme between China and Singapore and CapitaLand is proud to be the presenting sponsor and conservation donor of this programme. Being the national treasure of China, the giant pandas will be flying to Singapore on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 freighter. However, as SIA Cargo does not have any scheduled freighter services to Chengdu, where the pandas are residing at the moment, an existing freighter service will need to be extended in order to include a stop in Chengdu to pick up the pandas. Depending on the final flight path, the journey should not take more than eight hours.
"As with all live animal shipments, key preparations have been made to ensure a smooth journey. These include ensuring adequate handling and unloading facilities at both departure and arrival stations, ascertaining that all necessary documentation and paperwork have been completed for the pandas as well as the accompanying handlers, among other things. Care will also be taken on board to ensure optimal temperatures and humidity," reveals the SIA spokesman.
In-flight Arrangements for Absolute Panda Comfort
Regulating the temperatures and humidity inside the plane to the likes of their natural habitat in the mountains of Sichuan is just a way to make sure the pandas enjoy a smooth plane ride to Singapore.
"They thrive in a cooling environment that is about 18 to 22 degree Celcius and at 50 to 60 per cent humidity," expounds Ang Cheng Chye, the curator at River Safari.
Although the giant pandas will remain in individual custom-made crates throughout the flight, the treatment they will receive is no less than first class.
The giant pandas in-flight meal: fruits and panda cake – made from ground bamboo stems and leaves, egg supplements and salt
Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen
The pandas will be served delicious in-flight meals. "River Safari will have on board bamboo from China, fruits and panda cake – made from ground bamboo stems and leaves, egg supplements and salt," says Ang.
What's more, a team of zookeepers and veterinarians will be on hand to give added assurance to the pandas. "The team from the panda base in China will be travelling with the two pandas and will observe the animals' behaviour regularly to see if they are in distress. The presence of familiar faces will calm the animals," says Ang. With all these in place, Ang is confident that the duo need not be sedated for the flight.
Upon touchdown, climate-controlled trucks will be ready to move the duo to their quarantine enclosure in the River Safari park. And the countdown to public viewing begins!
Acclimatising to Sunny Singapore
River Safari will be Kai Kai and Jia Jia's home for the next ten years. Set to be the world's first river-themed wildlife park showcasing rivers of the world, it aims to educate visitors on the conservation of fresh water habitats and introduce them to the ecosystem's interesting water wildlife. The duo will be housed in a specially constructed climate-controlled exhibit along the Yangtze River display.
Before Kai Kai and Jia Jia can make their debut, they will need an estimated period of six months to get accustomed to Singapore's climate, as well as to complete the quarantine process.
"To help Kai Kai and Jia Jia further adapt to their new home at River Safari, the Chinese zookeepers will remain in Singapore for three to six months. During this time, my team and I can put into practice the knowledge that we have learnt from them for the last two years to care for the pandas. For example, we learnt how to get the animals to hold out their front paws through the cage bars so that handlers can take their blood pressure and blood samples," explains Ang.
With all these plans in the pipeline, excitement is fast building up in anticipation of the arrival of Kai Kai and Jia Jia! Let's hope they enjoy a great journey to Singapore, bon voyage!