Panda Ambassadors Visit Washington D.C.

Sep 09, 2013, 03:16 ET from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Two "special ambassadors" who speak up for giant panda conservation on Saturday visited Washington D.C., one of the four U.S. cities now have zoos with pandas on loan from China.

As Panda ambassadors, or Pambassadors, Melissa Katz from the United States and Jerome Pouille from France shared their knowledge and love for pandas with local audience and tourists on National Mall.

The two young people and Erica Chen Yingron from China, were chosen out of 1.16 million applicants in a global recruiting campaign last year for "the cutest job" representing Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

The three ambassadors kicked off a month-long global tour to cities that currently house pandas for protection and conservation of giant pandas and other endangered species in the world. Highlighted stops include Hong Kong, Singapore, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Edinburgh and Paris.

"I know giant pandas are very important to people in Washington D.C.," said Pouille during Saturday's event.

The French biologist has fallen in love with pandas since childhood and the passion prompted him to create a popular website in 2002 that is all about pandas.

Pouille and his fellow Pambassador Katz conducted a question and answer session with audience, with an array of interesting questions about pandas, such as "How many bamboos a giant panda eat every day?" or "how heavy is a newly-born panda cub?"

For questions about panda cubs, local panda lovers may have a decent chance to give them right answers, since they just learned good news of and more information about pandas from the National Zoo in the city recently.

Mei Xiang, the zoo's female panda on loan from China, gave birth to her third cub on Aug. 23, when the three Pambassadors hit the road for their global tour.

Katz, a New Jersey girl who had lived in the city for a year and a half, said she can imagine how excited local people are now about the new panda baby in particular because Mei Xiang had lost her second cub to illness last September only a week after the cub was born.

"I have loved my pandas for my entire life," said the 25-year-old former field hockey coach at American University in Washington D.C..

She used to live just two miles away from the National Zoo and often walked to visit the pair of pandas.

For her love for pandas, she made "a hard decision she has ever made" last year to quit the coaching job that she "truly love." As a Panda ambassador, she joined a three-months intensive training in Chengdu panda base last year. Katz felt that finally she could do something for real for the endangered species, such as being a keeper for pandas and learning more about pandas in order to share with other people in the world.

Pandas, also known as giant pandas, are native to China and one of the most endangered animal species in the world. About 1600 pandas live in the wild while more than 300 live in captivity.

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SOURCE Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding