‘Pambassadors’ tell world of pandas’ plight

Giant Pandas eating bamboo in Chengdu, Sichuan
Giant Pandas eating bamboo in Chengdu, Sichuan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An interesting concept to help promote Panda conservation – but is it ‘overkill’ of the species? China Daily reports

Chengdu-pandas-d12 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three contest winners to travel globe talking about endangered animals

The audience burst into hearty laughter when Frenchman Serge Pouille said he loved the giant panda in Chinese with a strong Sichuan accent after being dubbed a Pambassador, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Saturday.

Pouille had just been confirmed as one of three winners of the 2012 Global Pambassador program, a three-month long competition to find “panda ambassadors”, to spread the word of the plight of the giant panda across the globe. Pouille’s fellow Pambassadors are Chen Yinrong from China and Melissa Katz from the United States.

“All three of us shed tears after learning we had become the winners,” said Chen, 26, a journalist from a magazine in Shanghai.

Katz, Chen and Pouille will serve as Chengdu Pambassadors for one year in 2013, visiting all countries with pandas, including the US, Japan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Australia, to advocate for the protection and reproduction of the animals.

The Pambassador competition started on Sept 10, and nearly 1.2 million people from 30 countries and regions around the world took part.

The competition was organized by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in partnership with WildAid, an NGO combating illegal wildlife trade, and the Yao Ming Foundation, run by the retired NBA basketball star Yao Ming, to raise awareness of giant panda conservation.

On Saturday morning, 16 winners from four subzones in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and the Chinese mainland participated in the final competition in Chengdu.

After a 10-minute speech on what they would do as Pambassadors, the contestants had a three-minute quiz in which they answered questions such as: “What are the habits of the giant panda in summer?” and “Who was the first person to introduce the giant panda to the West?”

“It took Pouille only 90 seconds to finish all 10 questions in the quiz,” said Zhang Zhihe, chief of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Next, contestants were presented with four kinds of bamboo. They had to identify which two of the varieties were edible, and gather 40 kg of bamboo without a scale. The whole process could last no more than three minutes.

“Although Chen identified the bamboo quickly, the amount of bamboo she placed on the platform scale was only 5 kg,” said Wu Kongju, a competition judge from the research base.

But Chen distinguished herself by using an apple tied to a bamboo pole to lure a panda to stand up and walk, which is an exercise used to make the hind legs of a male panda strong.

“It would be good for a male panda in natural reproduction,” said Fei Lisong, deputy chief of the research base.

In this part of the competition, Chen got a score of eight out of 10.

All of the three Pambassadors are die-hard panda fans.

Pouille, 31, works for an environmental protection agency in France and has managed a French website about the giant panda since 2002.

The first animal toy for Katz, 24, a hockey coach, in her childhood was a panda. “And I have had pandas on the brain ever since,” she said.

She said the first thing she would do as a Pambassador was to appeal for people from different parts of the world to protect the giant panda, its habitats and other animal species.


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