The real myPandas breaking news

The Malaysian Parliament has approved Nuan Nuan’s return to China. The various newspapers have reported the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, as saying she will be returned on her second birthday next month.

Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi was also reported as saying money, or the lack of it, is the reason why Nuan Nuan is being sent back so soon. A newspaper in Taiwan even used it as the headline in their story about her return:
“‘I know this is hard, but we can’t afford to keep the panda any more'”

Some of my Facebook friends have expressed sadness over the news. But not me. Why sad? We’ve known all along that one day, Nuan Nuan will leave Malaysia and return to China. Maybe the announcement of the actual return date is too sudden and … so soon!

We should be happy and honoured – yes, honoured – that we will soon have a Malaysian-born giant panda cub in China!

When her parents, Fu Wa and Feng Yi, arrived in Malaysia in 2014, it was the only bit of good news in a year filled with sadness for our country. Fifteen months later, they gave us a surprise; while the giant panda team had officially announced that their mating was not successful, Feng Yi gave birth to a single cub on 18 August 2015!

Thanks to Fu Wa and Feng Yi, Malaysia has now made a contribution (God willing, the first of many) to China’s giant panda conservation efforts. And now two years later, this single cub, named Nuan Nuan on 7 April 2016, is ready to leave us and return to China.

What about the money?

As a volunteer in the Malaysian giant panda complex who has seen Nuan Nuan from the time she first went on exhibit at three months right up to today, and her many interactions with her mother, here’s how I see it.

It is not just about money. It really is time for Nuan Nuan to “leave home”. At almost 23 months old, she is still living with Feng Yi. If she stays on in Malaysia, they might continue to live together. All along, the Malaysian giant panda team has adopted a hands-off approach to her upbringing, leaving it to Feng Yi to do the necessary, including the separation process which should have commenced when Nuan Nuan turned 18 months old and completed by now. But Feng Yi has shown no signs of letting Nuan Nuan leave her side. Maybe it is to compensate for her previous mothering experience of being separated from her firstborn, Gong Gong, when he was only six months old. But the longer Nuan Nuan stays with Feng Yi, the harder it will be for her to adapt to living on her own when she is returned to China. This, according to a keeper friend who saw my recent photos of mother and daughter together, will affect Nuan Nuan’s confidence later on. So letting her return to China at a younger age will actually be good for her. And we should want only the best for our first Malaysian-born giant panda cub.

There, I’ve said it. And I do look forward to seeing Nuan Nuan among other pandas in one of the CCRCGP panda bases, most likely Dujiangyan where other recently returned giant panda cubs have been sent.

Such joy she has brought the Malaysian giant panda team, and the management and staff of Zoo Negara Malaysia; all the visitors, Malaysian and foreign, who have visited her and her parents; and not least, me. The next chapter of her life is about to begin, and it will be an exciting one!