Macau’s ‘VIPs’

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Issue 1020, Page 2
Word count: 642
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Macau people will very soon know which two giant pandas have been selected to come to settle in this Chinese territory, and probably spend the rest of their lives indoor in a compound.

I’m not big fan of the giant panda, but I have to admit that they are really adorable and always make me feel like wrapping my arms tightly around their fluffy and soft bodies, pinching their faces and also pulling their ears!

It is of course a very good piece of news for Macau to be given a pair of this rarest member of the bear family from the central government. Don’t forget that the giant panda is only found in China and has been The World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) logo since 1961, the year this international non-governmental organisation was founded. This just shows how precious and special these animals are in the world, and hence how fortunate we are to have an opportunity to give the giant panda a home.

Perhaps for the Macau government, the giant panda is also of political significance. Since it is among the world’s most threatened animals with less than 2,500 mature in the wild and has always been named as a “national treasure” of China, I would say President Hu’s announcement on December 20, 2009 about sending a pair of giant pandas as a gift to Macau implied a kind of recognition from the central government.

A pair of giant pandas, An An and Jia Jia, were given to Ocean Park by the central government in 1999 when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty. And then to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the SAR, two more pandas named Le Le and Ying Ying arrived at Ocean Park from the China Conservation and Research Centre in Wolong, Sichuan Province on May 1, 2007.

So, wouldn’t our government feel a little bit upset if China didn’t give us any of its black-and-white treasures whilst Hong Kong has already been given four?

Nevertheless, the Macau officials are talking about building a panda park in Seac Pai Van to house our two VIPs (Very Important PANDA!) coming all the way from Sichuan. I’m not too worried about this as I’m sure the Macau government will give only the best of the best to our fluffy friends, not only because our government has the money but also because the giant panda is more or less a symbol of and a gift from the motherland.

So my concern is, whether our government will launch some educational campaigns to let people know more about the giant pandas, especially about how to protect and respect them, instead of seeing people just say how cute they are and only know to take thousands of photos of them with the flashlight on that can spook and annoy the laid-back pandas?

The pair of giant pandas that Macau is going to nurture should deserve much more than just being treated as another photo opportunity/tourist attraction in the city. It is a great opportunity for both adults and children to see the endangered animal and at the same time learn about their background, why they’re facing a risk of becoming extinct and what kinds of threats they’re facing.

According to the WWF, the giant panda’s future remains uncertain. The organisation says due to the rapid economic development in China, the forest habitat of this bamboo-eating member of the bear family is increasingly fragmented by roads and railroads. Habitat loss continues to occur outside of protected areas, while poaching remains an ever-present threat.

How sad to see that humans in the modern world always choose to sacrifice wildlife and the natural environment for economic development. Perhaps there is also something here that Macau can learn and think about, apart from always talking about GDP growth and gaming revenue estimates.

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