Panda keeper wit­nesses big changes

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Zhang Hao was shocked by the end­less stream of tourists crowd­ing the paths lead­ing to panda dens when he was on duty at the Chengdu Re­search Base of Gi­ant Panda Breed­ing in Sichuan prov­ince dur­ing the eight-day Na­tional Day hol­i­day, which ended on Oct 8.

“The num­ber of tourists was so big, I told my­self tourists could see hu­man be­ings more clearly than pan­das,” said Zhang, who has worked as a keeper at the base since his grad­u­a­tion from col­lege as a ve­teri­nary medicine ma­jor in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince, in 2007.

When Zhang started at the base, most tourists were for­eign­ers and only a few were Chi­nese.

But that changed grad­u­ally, es­pe­cially in the past five years. Chi­nese tourists now out­num­ber their for­eign coun­ter­parts there.

The pos­i­tive changes have given him greater con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of the base and the coun­try, Zhang said. He also has great ex­pec­ta­tions for the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, which will open on Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing.

“The change show­cases the in­creas­ing aware­ness of wildlife pro­tec­tion among the Chi­nese peo­ple. It also shows that the liv­ing stan­dards of the Chi­nese have im­proved and they are bet­ter off and they can af­ford to travel from afar,” Zhang said.

Zhang, a na­tive of Nei­jiang, Sichuan prov­ince, has taken care of around 80 panda cubs in the past decade.

Some of the cubs have be­come very fa­mous over­seas af­ter be­ing loaned to for­eign coun­tries for joint breed­ing re­search.

“I cared for Bing Xing and Hua Zuiba, the pair of pan­das loaned to Spain,” Zhang said.

Hua Zuiba, who was born in 2003 and loaned to Spain in 2007, has given birth to four cubs in Spain.

To cater to the ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors at the Chengdu base, it has asked its staff mem­bers to smile when tourists ask for help and has up­graded its fa­cil­i­ties in the past five years.

“Even toi­lets have so­fas and tele­vi­sion sets,” Zhang said.

He hopes the 19th Na­tional Congress will for­mu­late poli­cies con­ducive to wildlife pro­tec­tion and an­i­mal wel­fare.

“The coun­try doesn’t have a uni­fied stan­dard per­tain­ing to an­i­mal wel­fare. Many peo­ple keep pet an­i­mals but do not make them com­fort­able. For ex­am­ple, the cages they put pet an­i­mals in are not big enough,” Zhang said.

“If peo­ple treat pet an­i­mals well, they will put em­pha­sis on wildlife pro­tec­tion,” he said.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Zhang Hao has greater con­fi­dence in the coun­try’s fu­ture.

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