21 September marked four months since Fu Wa and Feng Yi landed in Malaysia, and 28 September three months since they went on public display. Both dates came and passed without me realising their significance. How could I have missed it? Well, I forgot.
Where was I on both dates? 21 September was a Sunday so I would’ve been at the panda complex but I was not; I was in Bifengxia panda base for a day of “me” time with the pandas before the start of the Hug My Baby adopters’ annual get-together the next day. 28 September was also a Sunday and I had returned from Bifengxia so I was where I usually was on a Sunday: at the panda complex. I also had a guest that day, Ms Yukie Miyata from Japan. While I didn’t consciously celebrate both dates, I was where it mattered most both times, among pandas.
Fu Wa and Feng Yi have only been in Malaysia and on public display less than six months? It feels longer than that. Maybe it’s because I see them often – four days a week – when I volunteer at the panda complex. Four days at the panda complex and three days to attend to the rest of my life – that’s the routine I’ve carved out for myself since late June this year.
Fu Wa and Feng Yi also have their own daily routine. They come outside to their yards at around 9:00 a.m. every morning, have a break around 2:30 p.m. when they are called inside so their keepers can come out to clean and refresh their food, and return inside for the night around 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 6:00 p.m. on weekends. It’s almost like a 9-to-5 but their KPIs (key performance indicators) are to eat a lot, rest a lot and look cute when doing both.
Sometimes, having a routine can be boring. The keepers have come up with ways to make it even more fun for Fu Wa and Feng Yi. They each received an enrichment item in their yards around their 4th month milestone (oh, the keepers remembered … good).
Fu Wa and his enrichment
Fu Wa’s was a log balanced between his wooden structure and a new support structure. Initially, a ball tied to a rope was slung across the log.
He didn’t show much interest in the ball and the log/beam was just left in the yard sans any decorations. From time to time, he showed interest in the beam itself, venturing out from either end but eventually retreating.
I did see him crossing twice. The first time, there were some carrot pieces on top of the support structure, he was on his wooden structure and I think his eyes were on the food so that he crossed within thinking what was beneath him. I only managed a photo of him coming down the support structure after eating the carrots.
The second time, he was active on top of the support structure and before he knew it, he was quite a way out on the beam and had no choice but to continue going forward. This time, I was ready with my Lumix and recorded a video which showed him quite cautious before the halfway mark and then speeding up to finish crossing to his trusted wooden structure.
However, after this little adventure, it will be a while before he would see this beam again. The next day, he and Feng Yi would embark on their biggest enrichment to date.
Feng Yi – “Ip Man” Panda?
Meanwhile, Feng Yi received a somewhat complicated climbing structure that looked a little like legendary kung fu master Ip Man’s training pole.
I first saw her climb her new structure on the evening of 27 September. It looked like she was quite new to it; she seemed to have trouble getting off and kept climbing back up. Eventually, she did managed to get down, but I was a nervous wreck watching her.
Feng Yi would go on to enjoy her climbing structure more than Fu Wa did his beam.
But it seemed a bigger enrichment awaited both of them.
I was told they would swap yards a week before it actually happened, and when it did, it happened on a Monday, one of my three non-volunteer days, so I was not there to see them explore their new yards that’d once been the other’s old yard. I did get one of the panda rangers to take photos for me. The photos I got showed them during one of their quieter moments on their first day after moving in.
I was also told Feng Yi was a little cautious on the beam that first day. But sometime mid-morning on the second day when I was there, she walked across the beam, albeit shuffling slowly so as not to fall. And then, on the third day, I saw her walk across the beam from one end to the other, and back again after a short rest. For sure, my girl is “berani” (brave).
Fu Wa, too, got acquainted with the climbing structure that was once Feng Yi’s. Bravo, Fu Wa!
I’m not tired yet
As for me, I’m still as excited as I was on my first day as a volunteer more than four months ago. It’s the visitors who keep me excited. True, there are the grumpy ones who get angry at us because they happened to visit when both Fu Wa and Feng Yi were sleeping, their paws over the faces to make even a good “selfie” impossible. But these complaints fade away when I see the happy faces of visitors coming face-to-face with their first giant panda in the fur. My happiest moments are when groups of young visitors stream into the panda hall, two-by-two and hand-in-hand towards the railings to watch either Fu Wa or Feng Yi.
I’ve said before that Fu Wa’s and Feng Yi’s arrival has given Zoo Negara Malaysia the motivation to upgrade its premises and other animal enclosures. Their arrival has also given many people the opportunity to see giant pandas that they would not otherwise have, some because of financial reasons and others because giant pandas are simply not a priority. I am especially grateful to the schools – kindergartens, primary, secondary and even special needs schools that have arranged visits for their pupils and students.
Thank you. Terima kasih. 谢谢.