Pandas the toast of Zoo Negara

Pandas the toast of Zoo Negara
Star attraction: Visitors watching a sleeping Liang Liang inside the exhibition centre at Zoo Negara.

KUALA LUMPUR - They didn't do much, except walk and eat but that was enough to create excitement for those seeing Xing Xing and Liang Liang at Zoo Negara's Giant Panda Conservation and Exhibition Centre.

The centre was opened to the public yesterday.

Student Harris Haiqal Shaan who had been waiting to see the pandas was ecstatic after being allowed to feed one of them.

"It was amazing. After seeing the pandas up close, I had the rare opportunity to feed them," he said.

His friend Maryan Mardhirah was surprised by the RM20 (S$8) entry fee for the centre but was satisfied after the visit.

"The RM20 (S$8) was worth it because we got to see the pandas, to see them walk around and my friend even had the chance to feed one," she added.

Another visitor, Asma Laila Abdullah, 50, who works in a bank, took leave just to see the pandas with her husband and a friend.

"I have been very keen to see the animals since I was young but could not afford to go to China. I'm happy that we can see them here," she said.

Zoo Negara's senior supervisor Ahmad Nizam Zainudin who is among the pandas' caretakers said his team was relishing the opportunity to look after them and study them.

"Caring for them is extraordinary as compared to other animals because it is more challenging. Their needs are more demanding," Ahmad Nizam said.

Rosly Rahman, the national zoo's deputy president hoped that the arrival of the pandas would bring the crowds back especially during the Hari Raya period.

"We usually have about 300 to 400 people a day visiting on Fridays but there were already 200 visitors in the morning and most were here to see the pandas," he said.

Rosly said Zoo Negara was looking at bringing in other animals like the red panda and the komodo dragon later, depending on the public response toward the pandas.

The arrival of male panda Xing Xing and his female companion Liang Liang commemorates 40 years of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia. Zoo Negara will be home to the two pandas for the next 10 years.

Those born on Aug 23 will be able see the giant pandas for free on their birthdays.

The centre has also organised a series of special activities for those who share the same birthday with the pandas, which were born in 2006.

Rosly said the best time to visit the panda centre was about 11.30am and 2.30pm - the pandas' feeding time - when they would be most active.

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