His day starts with watching the pandas, monitoring their health, cleaning up the enclosure, and then feeding them bamboo leaves. Li Denghe, 23, is a panda keeper, the youngest in Bifengxia Panda Base. Li has been at the base for half a year, arriving after he graduated from a vocational school.
For the whole morning, Li watches and notes how much food his pandas have eaten, and then decides how much forage to feed them. He also attentively observes his pandas’ mental state and activities.
“It’s an honor for me to do this job, since I majored in animal and veterinary sciences and I can use what I have learned in my job,” said Li.
“I had never seen pandas before I came here, and I was really excited after I saw them. Now I’m closely connected to these pandas. They’ll come out and approach me when they hear my voice. I really like this job,” he said.
Bifengxia Panda Base, affiliated to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, is located 18 kilometers north of Ya’an, Sichuan Province.
The base came into service in late December of 2003, and now has 155 pandas, according to its website. With fewer than 2,000 pandas remaining in the wild, centers like Bifengxia are vital in the iconic species’ survival. It is focused on raising and breeding pandas, and in recent years has produced “panda celebrities,” who are presented as gifts, like Tuantuan and Yuanyuan to Taiwan in late December of 2008.
Applying for the job is competitive. Usually there is one keeper to every two mature pandas, which means the base has a quota. Those who do not become keepers can become panda volunteers. Some of them are foreigners, according to media reports.
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Global Times | 2013-4-15