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Qiang Qiang and I – A Keeper’s Story – Part 2 of 4

Qiang Qiang and I

Written by Qiang Zhou, CCRCGP
Translated by Pat Weiyi Zhang

Miracle of life

At 9:40 pm, Qiang Qiang was transferred to his new home–the quarantine villa for pandas. After traveling the long distance and undergoing a grueling surgery, Qiang Qiang’s spirit was completely deflated, which made us worry even more. You could see that he had lost the strength to even open his eyes.  He just curled up motionlessly on the straw mat we prepared for him. That night, I was the only one scheduled  to be on duty. No one who had helped with Qiang Qiang’s transfer was willing to leave, however.  In the office, we all waited and waited for him to wake up.  In order to keep things as quiet as possible, I was the only one who left the office to watch him inside the enclosure. Each time I checked on him, I quietly got close to him, looking at him with so much love as if he was my own child. He was a skeleton of an adult panda with missing limbs. The stitches on his wounds were acutely visible. Some senile plaque could be seen on his nose. He was so thin that only his fur was left to cover his body. Time passed and Qiang Qiang was still in a coma. My tears came again.

At 11:30pm, Qiang Qiang finally opened his eyes with great effort. He weakly looked around, still instinctively prepared to fight any unknown dangers.  I was so happy. I wiped my tears and ran to the office to report the good news. The atmosphere in the office was still bleak. Everyone frowned. An old keeper deep in thought with a burned up cigarette still in his hand.  A vet was holding his head in his hands looking defeated. The leaders were sitting together in quiet conversation. When they heard the news that Qiang Qiang had just woken up, everyone looked even more nervous. Director Zhang told us to immediately feed Qiang Qiang, offering him nutritious liquid and bamboo shoots. Experienced keepers knew that what he would need most after his long travels was water. And that, after surgery, what he needed most was nutrition.

Teacher Zhou approached me and cautioned me to be careful. He said: “The giant panda could be aggressive. Qiang Qiang is from the wild. You must be very careful when going inside the enclosure. ” I nodded my head, carefully entered Qiang Qiang’s territory with the nutritious liquid and bamboo shoots that were prepared earlier. When Qiang Qiang saw me getting close to him, he instinctively became more alert  and curled up to get ready to protect himself from the enemy. When I saw this, I slowly squatted, put down the nutrient rich liquid on the ground and then quietly pushed it to a place where he could reach it.  I then slowly moved back and squatted about 2 meters away from him where it was safer to watch and showed him that I was friendly. He looked at me for quite a while to be sure that I was not enemy and then, tempted by the scent, began drinking. He kept a cautious eye on me, but within 10 minutes he had slowly consumed 300ml of the nutrient-rich liquid. When he finished, I slowly passed him 1kg of bamboo shoots. In the beginning, he obviously was not comfortable with my being so close to him and did not even touch the bamboo shoots.  I moved the bamboo shoots to a place where he could reach them with his front paws and got out of the enclosure. After about 10 minutes of a stalemate, Qiang Qiang began to slowly take the bamboo shoots. Like people eating sugar cane, he peeled the outer skin and ate the cores.

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The entire center was full of excitement as news of his eating and drinking spread. “It’s good that he is eating now”. “It is good as long as he can be alive ”. “His weight can be slowly adjusted”. “Keepers must pay more attention to his hind legs” . “If he still needs nutrients, it’s better to feed him some formulated milk”. “Collect some poop to check for intestinal parasites”. Everyone had a tiny piece of advice.