By mid-August 2012, Fu Wa and Feng Yi had been returned to Bifengxia Panda Base from their respective “outposts”, Wenling and Guilin.
On 29 August 2012, China Press, a Malaysian Chinese newspaper, published an exclusive report of a special visit its team had made to see them in Bifengxia.
The headline of the exclusive report indicated that the pair needed only a month’s notice to be ready to fly to their new home. But this was only half the story; the other half, found in the first paragraph of the report, clarified “as long as Panda’s residence in Putrajaya Wetland Park was completed, the panda can always flying to Malaysia.” (translation by Google Translate).
One thing was clear from the China Press exclusive report: it was all systems go at Bifengxia Panda Base (it would seem from the moment the base found out which two pandas are going to Malaysia!) to get Fu Wa and Feng Yi ready to fly to their new home with just one month’s notice. And the first step was to bring them back from their “outposts” as soon as possible.
Feng Yi prepares to leave Guilin
Feng Yi was the first to fly back to Bifengxia in early August.
As her adopter, I have had more access to news about her departure from Guilin, thanks to a good friend who sent me links to the news whenever they were published. Her imminent departure was featured in the local TV station, and the people of Guilin were encouraged to visit and say their goodbyes from mid July 2012 onwards. Stories in the local papers included this coverage in Guilin Daily on 23 July 2012.
None of the news items mentioned the actual date of her departure. I tried to find the date as I thought I might fly over to see her in Guilin one more time. But the only information I could find was “early August”. Eventually, I remembered I had the phone number of the vet at the Seven Star Park where she had lived since December 2009. I called him on 31 July 2009 and finally learned that she would be flown back to Bifengxia on the evening of 6 August 2012. The timing was not good at all; 6 August was when my sister and I would be moving our mother to the new nursing home. As it turned out, mother’s moving date was brought forward and I was able to book my flight to Guilin on 6 August itself.
The flight to Guilin was early in the morning; I arrived mid-morning, checked into the hotel (always the same hotel just down the road from the park so I didn’t have to deal with traffic and whatnots, and in fact could walk to the park), had lunch and then went to spend time with Feng Yi. By then, the hype over her departure had subsided, with life in Guilin back to normal, and very few visitors at the park that day.
Feng Yi spent most of that afternoon outdoors near her pool. Around 4:00 p.m., keeper Jiang called her and she went indoors and shortly after that, entered her transport carrier, to be flown to Chengdu that evening, accompanied by keeper Feng from Bifengxia. They would be travelling on a regular flight. If only the other passengers knew they had a VSP (Very Special Panda) travelling with them!
Feng Yi’s last afternoon in Seven Star Park, Guilin; 6 August 2012
Feng Yi looking over to where keeper Jiang was calling her
Her departure was mentioned on the front page of the evening edition of the Guilin Daily, with a half-page write-up inside.
Fu Wa’s return to Bifengxia
Fu Wa would return to Bifengxia from Wenling on 15 August, accompanied by keeper Gao Qiang from Bifengxia. The same friend who sent me the various news links about Feng Yi’s departure from Guilin, also sent me a news link of Fu Wa’s departure on the day itself, with photos of him in his transport carrier.
Back Home Again
Once back in Bifengxia, they were placed in a two-room enclosure (Villa #4) in the BaiXiongPing (White Bear Ground) area in Bifengxia Panda Base. Here, they lived next door to each other, their rooms separated by a small area that held an electronic weighing platform. Outdoors, their yards were separated by a mesh fence that allowed them to interact. All this close proximity was to allow them to renew their acquaintance; the last time they’d been together was at the Olympic Exhibit in Beijing Zoo when they’d shared quarters with their six fellow “Olympians”. This time, it would just be the two of them, and for two weeks in September, there was a regular visitor who came to see her adopted panda Feng Yi and at the same time, became better acquainted with Fu Wa.
Seeing Feng Yi again, and Fu Wa, too
Given that I’m Feng Yi’s adopter, I’ve spent more time with her than with Fu Wa. After our first meeting in September 2007 in Wolong Panda Base, I’ve visited her every year since – Beijing during the Summer Olympics in August 2008, Bifengxia in May 2009, and Guilin three times, in August 2010, November 2011 and August 2012.
As for Fu Wa, I saw him in Bifengxia in May 2009. This was after the Olympic 8 had returned from Beijing, and besides Feng Yi, I was interested to see the other seven. By that time, there were only five in Bifengxia as three of them had been sent to Nanjing at the end of March.
After seeing Feng Yi off from Guilin on 6 August, I returned home to get ready for my second visit of the year to Bifengxia. I’d visited in May and now for the September trip, I was looking forward to seeing her again, and Fu Wa, too.