Along the Away

a traveler's tales

The only thing Jo and I had pre-planned before arriving in Adelaide was this very special experience visiting Adelaide’s two resident Giant Pandas at Adelaide Zoo. My sister had watched a TV segment about the Giant Pandas and really wanted to see them so we decided to gift each other the experience for our birthday (Twins! December birth date!)

Wang Wang and Fu Ni are the only Giant Pandas living in the Southern Henisphere! Why are they here? Well, they’re here to baby-make! That and help the international community to build scientific data and understanding of sustainable habitats for Giant Pandas. China have loaned Wang Wang and Fu Ni as part of the worldwide program to study the pandas’ nutritional requirements and reproductive biology. As the only pair of Giant Pandas in the Southern Hemisphere Wang Wang and Fu Ni had enabled a completely new set of scientific data highlighting the differences between hemispheres and how it affects pandas’ biology.

We were lucky to go when we did, a couple of months after they stopped the Panda Encounter indefinitely due to the breeding program.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

Getting to the Zoo was easy, after a CBD breakfast off of Rundle Mall we walked down to the river and followed it through the parkland to the zoo.

Adelaide Rundle Mall Adelaide Rundle Mall

We were so pleasantly surprised to find we were the only two taking part in the experience the day we went, so we were lucky to have a private tour.

When we arrived our wonderful personal guide and panda keeper met us and took us for a wander through the zoo before it had opened for the day. I wish I could remember his name as he was a delightful older gentleman who was cheerful and passionate about the Zoo and pandas.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

We got to meet a number of little creatures, many of who were eagerly enjoying breakfast.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

A highlight was the Red Pandas, who were inquisitive and energetic, plus more than a bit adorable!

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

We ended up our tour at the Panda exhibit, Wang Wang and Fu Ni were both up and active, though sitting apart in their seperate exhibits. Both were munch-munch-munching away at their stock of bamboo.

Fu Ni sat with her back against the glass not too interested in us. She is supposed to be the more playful of the two, having been a twin and reared in her childhood with a playmate, but apparently she is very aware of her status and has learnt how to get what she wants and when she wants it – we weren’t really of any value to her!

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

Wang Wang was just as nonchalant. He sat facing us, both paws stuffed with bamboo and alternating between each to stuff his face – so cute and funny to watch.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

After a while he got up and ambled around his enclosure, with all the lazy confidence of a guy happy with his lot in life.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

We learnt a lot about Wang Wang and Fu Ni, especially their personalities and all the little tricks the trainers have to get them to cooperate AND all the little tricks they have to get what they want.

The pandas are trained to inch right up to the steel bars, sitting upright, allowing keepers to take their temperature daily and blood samples as required.

All the training they have both had is rewarded with food. They particularly like apple slices and “panda cake” – a concoction of corn and rice powders, soy flour, ground bamboo, sugar, and eggs.

Fu Ni has also been trained to lie on her side, to get ultrasounds. When we visited the Zoo was hoping Fu Ni had a bun in the oven but it was too early for them to tell – a couple of months later they determined she was showing some signs she was though it is impossible to confirm a panda pregnancy until right at the end. There had been a couple of false starts over the previous few years. The zoo has tried. Wang Wang and Fu Ni tried (kinda,Wang Wang was a bit disinterested actually). Despite the Zoo looking after Fu Ni as though she were pregnant last year, it turned out she had a pseudo pregnancy complete with a pseudo labour- poor Fu Ni! The Zoo will keep trying though, hopefully one day she will have a baby, for the sake of the conservation of the Giant Pandas.

Panda Experience at Adelaide Zoo

It really was a most wonderful experience, and the lovely location of the zoo next to the Botanic Gardens meant that when we left we ambled through them, grabbed a picnic lunch and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

After a couple of hours it was time to pick ourselves up and start making our way to the airport. The end of a wonderful week in Adelaide, what a great end and start a year!

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Sydney based, coastal dwelling. When I'm not at work I'm somewhere outdoors, or in the yoga studio, or at my local cafe, or pottering at home.

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