From ‘Giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrive in Singapore’, 6 Sept 2012, Today online
Singapore welcomed two new residents, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia from Chengdu, China this morning. The pandas are in Singapore on a 10-year loan from the Chinese government to mark two decades of strong ties between China and Singapore.
Kai Kai and Jia Jia boarded a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 cargo freighter at 3.45am this morning, arriving at Singapore Changi Airport about four and a half hours later along with a team of five keepers and vets from both China and Singapore who were also on board to ensure the pandas’ well-being.
…It was the pandas’ first time away from home, and extra care was taken to minimise stress for the animals. The departure and arrival times were scheduled to reduce climate-related discomfort for the pandas. The cabin temperature was kept between 18 to 22 degrees celsius, consistent to their native habitat in Sichuan, China.
Fruits, water and about 90kg of bamboo were also carried on board for the pandas’ meals. Wildlife Reserves Singapore also brought along bamboo from Guangzhou, in case the pandas need time to adjust to the taste of locally-grown bamboo.
This is only the third time in history that Singaporeans have seen pandas in the flesh. Cute and cuddly national treasures aside, KKJJ are beasts turned political gifts as part of China’s bid for world domination. In 1988, JIAO JIAO arrived here as part of a Circus troupe, performing tricks like riding a horse and eating with fork and spoon at the Kallang Theatre. These acts, of course, are totally unnatural to the poor creature, which spends most of its time gnawing on shoots, sleeping, or tumbling down playground slides. Perhaps the pandas’ new loft has the latter to deliver hours of solid entertainment to the zoo folk, though it may distract the pair from the REAL purpose of planting them here: To grow our very own SingaPanda, failure of which Kai Kai may have to be prodded by a gland-stimulating stick in order of us to save face. We may have to do that to our childless couples too some day.
In 1990, we took custody of AN AN and XINXING for 100 days without them dying. KKJJ will be here for a decade, by which time they would probably feel right at home, not so much because we would have devised a way of genetically modifying our local bamboo into panda chow, but because it wouldn’t be just their caretakers and feeders who’re China-born, but maybe half the population here as well.
Pandas are notorious for their dismal libido and diet preferences, though pop culture has made them synonymous with kungfu fighting. All this fanfare and media blitz over KKJJ aside, it’s worth noting that rent-a-panda schemes still risk ending in disaster despite the good intentions, technology, attention and money involved. Only recently, a panda cub perished in Japan’s Ueno Zoo barely after birth. In 2010, also in Japan, the unfortunately named LONG LONG died after an unsuccessful bid to extract his SPERM in a breeding programme. Casting out pandas as ambassadors to China without doing one’s homework of hostile environments led to the demise and suffering of many a panda in the last century. The first envoy to cross the Iron Curtain Ping Ping died 3 years upon arrival in Russia in 1961. In a time when white men and former US Presidents in trilby hats shot down rare exotic animals as trophies, a panda died on a voyage to London from China via Singapore in 1937. It was painted BROWN to avert unwanted attention. Today, people paint brown dogs into PANDAS.
Cue commercial spin-off into commemorative plush toys, coins, sweets and all sorts of panda memorabilia to celebrate the arrival of two endangered, temperate animals in a hot, strange land, with their names changed (JJ used to be HU BAO, while KK was WU JIE) , eking out a lavish honeymoon in a place called a RIVER SAFARI while incubated in their below-20 C enclosure. Perhaps Breadtalk could relaunch their ‘Peace Panda Buns‘ in honour of KKJJ. Although this is all politics, Sino-relations and tourism marketing in the name of ‘conservation’ of the species, you’d have to wonder just how costly and carbon-unfriendly rearing pandas could be in a tropical climate like ours, and how beneficial this panda exchange programme will be for the EARTH in general. Air-conditioning 24-7, flights to and fro China transporting bamboo and ‘pandalogists’, setting aside land to grow something that can’t sustain any other animal, humans included. For 10 whole years. The amount of money spent playing panda match-maker could have went into other local green projects and animal welfare, unless we discover a renewable energy resource in panda poop.
If only there were as many panda souveniers as there are panda puns; If I had 5 cents for every time someone mentions the annoying word ‘pandamonium’, I would have enough money to foster KKJJ myself, or send them back into the reserve where they belong.