August 30, 2023
KUALA LUMPUR – It was a sombre day at Zoo Negara as hundreds of visitors and zoo staff bid goodbye to Giant Panda cubs Yi Yi and Sheng Yi as the siblings embarked on their journey back to China.
Panda enthusiast Eiza Idanie, 42, was close to tears as she waved a bittersweet goodbye to the vans leaving the zoo with the cubs.
“I’ve been a big fan of the pandas since I was young, and I have been following the cubs’ parents, Fu Wa and Feng Yi, since before they first arrived at the zoo in 2014. I really hope they return again one day once they are fully matured,” she said.
Eiza is, however, hopeful that it will not be her last goodbye to the cubs, as she plans to travel to China to visit them in the future.
Sheng Yi and Yi Yi are the offspring of Fu Wa and Feng Yi, the pandas loaned to Malaysia by China in 2014 for 10 years to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The panda pair were later renamed Xing Xing and Liang Liang.
Yi Yi was born on Jan 14, 2018, while Sheng Yi was born on May 31, 2021. Their older sibling, Nuan Nuan, born on Aug 18, 2015, returned to China in 2017.
Teacher Amran Yusop, 45, held his children high as they wished the cubs a bright future in their new home in China.
“We really hope they’re able to adapt well in their new home even if this is the last time I get to see them,” said Amran.
A shopkeeper at one of the zoo’s souvenir outlets, who only wanted to be known as Yee, described her sadness at the cubs’ departure.
“I’ve worked here since the parents first arrived in 2014, so it’s a bit surreal and a heartache to see their children leaving, even if it’s for a greater cause,” said Yee, whose shop sells Giant Panda merchandise.
Zoo Negara deputy director Rosly@Rahmat Ahmat Lana assured animal lovers that the pair would be in good hands.
“Their journey home will be joined by one of the zoo’s senior vets as well as the director of administration, Ahmad Nizam Zainudin.
“Ahmad was the first zookeeper to care for the cubs’ parents when they first arrived in 2014, and he has continued to personally care for them even after he was promoted to his current position.“He will be the best person for the job of helping the cubs adapt to their new life in China as he knows all their eating and personal habits the best,” Rosly said, adding that the zoo staff was expected to return by Sept 2.
He said he hoped that the parents’ stay in Malaysia could be extended to prevent another sad goodbye next year.
“They’re currently the only two pandas left at the zoo and are expected to return to China in May next year.
“We at the zoo love all our animals like they are our children, and it would be a very sad event for us and local animal lovers if we had to say another goodbye so soon.
“I hope the Malaysian and Chinese governments can discuss extending the pair’s stay by another five years at least,” he added.
Deputy Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Datuk Seri Huang Tiong Sii said the cubs’ return would help in the conservation efforts of the species while creating closer ties between the two nations.
“The return of these Giant Panda cubs will serve the purpose of Giant Panda conservation, enabling them to socialise and breed with other Giant Pandas in their natural habitat.
“I hope that these Giant Pandas, who are special envoys from China, can further promote understanding and closer cooperation between our two countries in the future,” he told reporters.
A joint assessment and evaluation would be conducted later this year with the China Wildlife Conservation Association to determine the success and progress of the International Cooperative Agreement on Giant Panda Conservation so far, he added.