Readers turn panda keepers for a day

Readers turn panda keepers for a day

SINGAPORE - The giant panda is her favourite animal and seeing one at the zoo is always a treat. But over 3 1/2 hours on Saturday, Ms Rachel Chia learnt how complex and tedious husbandry work for the animals is.

From 9am, Ms Chia, 20, shadowed a group of panda keepers going about their daily tasks, like harvesting bamboo and cleaning the enclosure, at the Giant Panda Forest in the River Safari.

"I really hope to be able to work in the zoo some day and this has only encouraged me more," said the communication- studies undergraduate.

Ms Chia, together with four other lucky My Paper readers, were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the Giant Panda Forest.

The five were chosen in a recent My Paper contest and are part of a group of 10 Panda Party Planners enlisted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Their task: To prepare a special birthday cake and an enrichment toy, which will be presented to pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia, to celebrate the first anniversary of their arrival here from China at a private party on Friday.

Both pandas' birthdays also fall in this month, with Kai Kai turning six on Sept 14 and Jia Jia, five, tomorrow.

The cake, meant for Kai Kai, is made of bamboo stems tied in a circular fashion and held together in a block of ice, and decorated with carrots and bamboo leaves. Meanwhile, the enrichment toy for Jia Jia is made out of bamboo stems tied in the style of a windchime.

As part of Saturday's programme, the participants visited the River Safari's bamboo nursery. There, they learnt about the different types of bamboo which are grown to supply the pandas' daily intake of over 20kg each.

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