Chengdu Panda – Meet Your Pambassadors!

Chengdu Panda – Meet Your Pambassadors!

Ashley Robertson has loved pandas her entire life. Since she was a little girl growing up in Alabama, it has been her dream to go to China and volunteer to help save the endangered panda population.

Robertson's childhood dream came true this month, as she won a contest that allowed her to become a panda caretaker at the Chengdu Panda Base in Sichuan Province, China.

The caretakers have been called "Pambassadors." Twenty-five-year-old Robertson cared for a 1-year-old giant panda named Qiqi [chee-chee]. The panda weighed just 77 grams (2.7 ounces) at birth. She was named Qiqi because the number 77 in the Mandarin Chinese language sounds like Qiqi.

Being a Pambassador certainly requires a lot of cuddles and smiles. But the caretakers must also clean up their panda's living space, prepare meals of bamboo and special protein cakes, and record the panda's behavior in a daily journal.

Robertson is one of six lucky people from around the world who was chosen to spend four weeks caring for the endangered pandas.

"I believe being a Pambassador is the best job in the world," Robertson told reporters. "I want to go on with it forever. I hope I can stay here as a volunteer in the future."

Project Panda

The Pambassador program is meant to bring more attention to the plight of the endangered giant panda. Experts believe that only 1,600 pandas live in the wild. Two hundred to three hundred live in captivity; about a hundred of those make their home at the Chengdu Panda Base.

"The key to panda conservation is to protect the wild panda population and its natural habitat," said Jing Hui, an official with World Wildlife Federation China.
"Through this campaign, we hope to raise public awareness of the threats and challenges that wild pandas face and encourage more people to join conservation efforts to protect pandas and their homes in the wild."

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