Foreign ‘parents’ adopt bears as part of family
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.