26 years ago, He Changlin rescued a panda cub by feeding him with his grandson’s baby milk bottle. 25 years later, He’s grandson, He Xin, who works as a panda keeper, spent about three years with Ping Ping in Foping Panda Base. This is an amazing story about the giant panda Ping Ping and He’s family.
Ping Ping at Hua Yang County, Shaanxi
The villager saved Ping Ping’s life
On an afternoon in November 1991, Wu Yuncai and Wang Tiejun, the staff of the Foping Nature Reserve, surprisedly found a panda cub that the size of a kitten while they were patrolling. This cub was lying on the snow with half-squinted eyes, and he looked very weak with some wailing sound. Wu Yuncai, who has been worked at reserve for many years, picked up the cub from the snow and held him in his arms. Wu knew that the female panda would abandon the cubs if they smell something strange from the cubs. The staff carried the cub to a shelter around Sanguan temple by walking for 2 hours at night.
The cub was named Ping Ping by the staff, and they hope the cub live a good life without dangers. Ping Ping was too young to have some food, so someone put a little milk powder in a teacup to made the milk and fed him with a spoon, while the cub didn’t seem to like milk.
Wang Tiejun held Ping Ping with his arms to sleep for a whole night. Wang was amused by Ping Ping, who was just like a baby rolling on the bed.
Sanguan temple is located in the Foping National Nature Reserve and is the core area of giant pandas’ habitat. At that time, there were 14 households with more than 50 villagers. The village was remote and the villagers were very poor, and all the daily necessities were needed to be transported from the town about a hundred miles away by horses. Wang heard that a villager named He Changlin, and he had a grandchild who was still breastfeeding. Then, Wang went to borrow a baby bottle for the panda cub.
Although the milk powder was very expensive to the villagers, He Changlin and his wife filled a bottle of milk for the panda. However, Ping Ping showed no interests to the milk. When HE saw it, he hugged it in his arms like a child. His wife squeezed a drop of milk onto his mouth. It worked very well. Ping Ping immediately grabbed the pacifier and sucked it. After a while, he drank it up.
He Changlin was feeding Ping Ping with his wife
The shelter of Sanguan temple was not qualified to take a good care of panda. Therefore, Wang Tiejun carried the cub to the town by walking in the snow. There was a staff named Zhao Naxun, who came from the office of Foping nature reserve, and he took Ping Ping away.
Zhao took care of Ping Ping for two years, and sometimes he walked the panda around the forest at sunny day. Ping Ping enjoyed playing with some kids when he stayed at the keepers’ office, and he was interested in imitating the behaviors by watching keepers pick up phone. Ping Ping was identified as a boy at age of 6 months by professor Pan Wenshi.
Zhao Naxun was walking with Ping Ping
In November 1993, Shaanxi Wild Animal Rescue Center (SWARC) was qualified to raise and rescue wild animals. The office decided to send Ping Ping to SWARC. On the departure day, Ping Ping was reluctant to leave. Zhao was very sad to see him leaving.
Ping Ping at the keepers’ office
Ping Ping climbed the car
Ping Ping became a father by mating with female panda Xue Xue at SWARC. Ping Ping's daughter Lou Sheng was born in 2003, who is the first giant panda successfully reproduced by artificial insemination in Shaanxi Province. In 2009, Lou Sheng gave birth to twins, and Ping Ping became a grandfather. Ping Ping became a great panda papa with a strong fertility.
Ping Ping and Xue Xue
Xue Xue and Lou Sheng
Ping Ping, who had been away from his hometown for 19 years, came from the research center to the Foping Panda Base and "reunited" with his old friend He Xin. At this time, Ping Ping was 21 years old and weighed 109 kilograms, which was equivalent to 70 years of human.
He Xin and Ping Ping
Ping Ping was curious about his new home. He Xin woke up at 6 o’clock, and prepared bamboo and milk for Ping Ping. He would do the house-swapping when Ping Ping was playing and eating in the garden. Sometimes, He Xin had to make sure that Ping Ping is fine in the middle night, and he wrote down everything about Ping Ping. It was not an easy job for He Xin, but he loved to spend time with Ping Ping. He Xin said, Ping Ping had a good appetite for consuming 80kg of bamboo everyday. It was necessary to cut the bamboo leaves into pieces, and Ping Ping’s teeth were worn out badly.
In 2006, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Foping Nature Reserve started a long-term cooperative research project on giant pandas. The son of He Changlin, He Qinggui became a ranger to track and monitor giant panda in the wild. He Changgui’s eldest son is a tour guide, and brings many tourists come to his hometown to introduce giant pandas to them. He Xin, one of He Changlin’s grandchildren, becomes a panda keeper at Foping Panda Base. He Xin was told by the other about that Ping Ping was rescued by sharing with his milk, when he was an infant.
He Xin's holding a panda cub
Ping Ping enjoyed his new life with the care of He Xin at Foping Panda Base. Ping Ping liked to play with the milk bowl, and he put the bowl on his head after drinking. Sometimes, Ping Ping sat on the bowl, and He Xin would bring a new bowl when Ping Ping broke it. Ping Ping liked to lick the crumbs when he was eating panda cake.
Ping Ping was playing with a bowl after drinking the milk
I was very fortune to meet He Xin in Foping Nature Reserve. He was taking care of the brown panda, Qi Zai. He shared so many good panda stories with us. I will sure post it here later.
(Right to Left: Me, Karen, Christie, He Xin)
Ping Ping passed away in 2015.
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