When Pandas and Children Meet

Tiny panda experts express their affinity for the endangered pandas through dance and drawings at the panda summer camp in Chengdu

Issue: Aug 2011

Children in their panda caps
The children in their panda caps giving their all to the specially-choreographed panda dance at the panda summer camp in Chengdu. Click to watch the video of the Panda Summer Camp

It was a glorious summer day on 15 July 2011. The Ya'an Bifengxia Base of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan was abuzz with activity. Excited chatter echoes through this 60-square kilometer panda paradise. Complete with breeding and research facilities, a special panda kindergarten, a panda hospital, a panda hotel and six different kinds of bamboo to pander to varying panda dietary needs, this eco destination played host to CapitaLand China's Panda Summer Camp. 30 children aged between five and nine, and nearly 20 volunteers from CapitaLand China travelled 150 kilometres from Chengdu to visit the pandas. Each child was accompanied by one parent on this trip.

Children arrived at the Ya'an Bifengxia Base of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
After a two-hour bus ride, the children arrived at the Ya'an Bifengxia Base of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda

"I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before," quipped nine-year old Xiong Yi Guo.

Declarations of "I can't wait to see the pandas" could be heard all around. But the children weren't the only ones thrilled to be part of the camp.

"I was born in Chengdu and I am very proud that my hometown is the giant panda's home. As a panda fan, I have been actively involved in various activities that have to do with panda conservation. It's my honour to be a volunteer for the panda camp. It's so meaningful for me to do what I can for these lovely pandas," said Xie Jia, one of the CapitaLand China staff volunteers.

Organised as an educational activity for the holidays, the one-day camp is part of CapitaLand's ongoing efforts at panda conservation. CapitaLand is the Presenting Sponsor and Conservation Donor of the pair of panda cubs Kai Kai (凯凯) and Jia Jia (嘉嘉) that are bound for Singapore next year on a 10-year loan from China. Sharing the conservation message with a new generation is also CapitaLand's way of giving back to the local Chinese community that have so warmly welcomed the organisation since it ventured into Chengdu five years ago.

Panda quiz
These children may be young but they are certainly not ignorant of panda facts judging from their quiz results

"We hope this panda camp will further contribute to the conservation efforts of these giant pandas. Children are our future. I believe that the camp will leave a lasting impression about conservation on the children," said Hoon Teck Ming, Regional General Manager, South West China, CapitaLand China Holdings Pte Ltd.

Puny Panda Experts

During the two-week long publicity campaign for the camp in June, some 300 children signed up. Each was given a quiz about pandas and the top 30 scorers were chosen to participate in the camp. One of them was six-year old Yin Jia Ji. Because of her age, she had to get her mother to write down her answers as she dictated them. But that did not prevent her from getting the highest score of 120 out of 140 points in the quiz.

"I am the panda expert in my class," beamed the little girl when asked about her impressive knowledge of the animals.

Not to be outdone, five-year old Kuang Wen Hao said, "Pandas are cute. I know they eat bamboo day and night."


Panda Summer Camp Video

Getting the Panda Facts

The camp participants were intrigued by the pandas behavior in their natural habitat
The camp participants were intrigued by the pandas behavior in their natural habitat

The first order of the day was to meet the two pandas who will soon make Singapore River Safari their home. The children had all sorts of questions about Kai Kai (凯凯) and Jia Jia (嘉嘉): "Can the pandas survive in Singapore?", "Will they have bamboo shoots to eat?", "Will they miss their mommy and daddy?".

They were quickly assured that Singapore had already been educated on the diet of these pandas and had not only started planting several species of bamboos in anticipation of their stay, but had also sent samples to the two cubs for a taste test.

There are nearly 70 giant pandas at the Ya'an Bifengxia Base of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
There are nearly 70 giant pandas at the Ya'an Bifengxia Base of China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda


The children intent on their panda portrait
The children intent on their panda portrait

They got to see the pandas at their natural best: romping and playing with each other, munching on their favourite bamboo snack, basking in the summer sun and enjoying a nap. When all that attention became overwhelming, Jia Jia (嘉嘉), the more reclusive of the two, bounded up a tree to nap in her favourite spot. Kai Kai (凯凯), on the other hand, was a natural star and delighted the children by heading towards the cameras at the sound of the shutters clicking.

The campers were also introduced to the pandas' new home, the Singapore River Safari. The river-themed zoo slated for completion later this year is the newest counterpart to the Singapore Zoo, the Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park all managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Panda Fun

Then, to get the children really involved, they were taught a panda dance.

"We invited a dancer to choreograph the steps for the kids. The dance was inspired by panda's natural movements. We selected a joyful and upbeat piece of music to complement the fast tempo of the dance," said Hoon.

The dance turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser.

"I like the panda dance. I hope to dance with the two pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia," declared Kuang.

"Panda dancing is the best part," agreed Yin. "I will dance for my friends when I go back home."

The children finished off the camp by doing a joint drawing of pandas engaged in various activities they had witnessed earlier in the day. The drawing will be presented to the two pandas and accompany them to Singapore.

"I think the painting is the best part. I have learnt to paint for four years. This is a great time to paint pandas. It's cool!" exclaimed Xiong.

The completed drawing by the children attending the summer camp
The completed drawing by the children attending the summer camp

At the close of the camp, all agreed this was an excellent, interactive way of teaching the children about conservation. It certainly etched the conservation message firmly in the minds of the young.

"Now I know that pandas can climb trees and eat meat," said Yin.

"Pandas are our friends. We need to protect our friends and live with them harmoniously," said Xiong.

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