KUALA LUMPUR - Visitors will get a chance to go "behind the scenes" at the panda enclosure in Zoo Negara here for an additional fee.
While the finer details have yet to be worked out, Zoo Negara deputy director Dr Muhammad Danial Felix said people who wanted to experience caring for pandas would be taken in as volunteers for a fee.
"The job of these volunteers would include helping to collect the uneaten bamboo sticks at the end of the day and cleaning up the cells where the pandas sleep," he added.
Other visitors to the zoo would not have access to these areas.
Dr Muhammad Danial said this arrangement was practised in Chengdu, where people are charged US$500 (S$624) just to work in the enclosure.
"The fees have not been finalised yet, but we will start this soon after the pandas arrive. These volunteers will get to see the pandas up close and if they are lucky, maybe even touch the pandas.
"The fee will vary depending on how long the volunteer wants to assist here," he told The Star during an exclusive visit to the enclosure ahead of the arrival of the giant pandas Fu Wa and Feng Yi.
In China, volunteers could also have their pictures taken with the panda for a fee of about US$250, he said.
Dr Muhammad Danial said that the uneaten bamboos had to be collected every day in order to measure how much the pandas had eaten.
"We will have to weigh the pandas every day to monitor the growth rate and ensure they do not get overweight as they will consume about 25kg of bamboo each every day," he added.
Apart from bamboos, the pandas will be treated to special biscuits and "bamboo cakes" during their 10-year stay here.
"We learnt how to bake our own bamboo cakes from experts in Singapore, Thailand and China.
"These cakes and biscuits will be given as treats to train the pandas to do things such as get on the weighing scale or show us their paws for us to check for any cuts or injuries," he said.
Visitors to the panda complex will be able to see where the bamboos are cut and the cakes and biscuits are prepared.
The RM25mil Giant Panda Conservation and Exhibition Centre also has five dens for the pandas to stay in.
At the end of these dens is an activity room, which will be used for bonding activities between the mother and baby if a baby panda is born within the next 10 years.