For­eign ‘par­ents’ adopt bears as part of fam­ily

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Chengdu

Dressed in cloth­ing cov­ered in car­toon pan­das, from his T-shirt to his socks, Wil­liam Burke flew all the way to South­west China from Hawaii with his wife, Karom Burke, to see their adopted pan­das.

At the first Chi­nese In­ter­na­tional Panda Cul­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Ac­tiv­ity, which ended on Sun­day in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, more than 60 panda “par­ents” from around the world had a chance to visit the an­i­mals they have spon­sored through do­na­tions.

“I was so sur­prised that a gi­ant panda cub could be as small as a stick of but­ter when I first saw Tai Shan at the Na­tional Zoo in Wash­ing­ton DC in 2005,” Karom said.

“Karom and I then de­cided to adopt a panda. Look, this one on my T-shirt is our first daugh­ter, Bai Xue,” Wil­liam said.

Since 2007, Wil­liam and Karom have spon­sored three pan­das: Bai Xue, Bai Xue’s son Jin Ke, and Bai Xue’s grand­daugh­ter Lin Ping.

The bears have be­come part of their fam­ily.

“When Bai Xue died last year, we were so sad that we had lost a fam­ily mem­ber,” Karom said.

But Wil­liam said that “there are happy mo­ments too”, adding: “We were so ex­cited when pan­das were up­graded from ‘en­dan­gered’ to ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ on the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture Red List last month. My cousin sent me this watch with a panda car­toon on it to cel­e­brate .”

Suzanne Braden, from the United States, has adopted four pan­das. In 1999, she adopted her first panda and named it after her late fa­ther, Har­vey.

“On our way back home from see­ing pan­das in China, I thought we must do some­thing to pro­tect the cute species,” Suzanne said. She and her friend Diane Rees co­founded Pan­das In­ter­na­tional, an NGO de­voted to pro­tect­ing pan­das, in 2000.

So far, more than 5,000 peo­ple from over 20 coun­tries have par­tic­i­pated in Pan­das In­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

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