Excited chatter echoed through the lush green bamboo nursery at River Safari where a small crowd had gathered. They were none other than the Panda Party Planners who had been specially recruited to assist in planning for a special birthday surprise for giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
September marks an important milestone for them as it is their one-year anniversary at River Safari plus their birthdays, too. Jia Jia turns five on 3 September and Kai Kai would be six on 14 September. For the first time, Wildlife Reserves Singapore had roped in the help of the public as their Panda Party Planners for the party to be held on 6 September.
As the Presenting Sponsor and Conservation Donor of the ten-year Singapore-China Giant Panda Collaborative Programme, CapitaLand helped to recruit five party planners. The lucky winners were picked for their creative tweets on why they should be chosen as a panda party planner.
Amongst them was 27 year old personal assistant Jasmine Chew, whose tweet stood out because she specially created a panda comic with her phone app. “I was surprised when I was notified; it was very unexpected and I feel very excited and glad to be one of the five winners!” she shared. “I really look forward to prepare a nice surprise for the pandas.”
Fellow winner Violet Lai, 25 year old student was elated to win because she had been a panda fan since she was 3 years old. “Whenever I see panda items, I can’t resist and will just buy it!” she said. “If it is possible, I’d even hope to work here at River Safari!”
Preparations for a Paw-fect Party
A week before the actual party, a host of activities were lined up for the Panda Party Planners to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get behind the scenes and assist the giant panda keepers.
Starting off at the bamboo nursery where four species of bamboos have been specially cultivated for the picky eaters, the party planners learnt from the horticulturist about bamboo harvesting and preparation. 30-year-old educator Steven Goh even gamely tried one of the bamboo leave when the horticulturist offered!
“It didn’t taste too bad; maybe I will try other bamboo leaves later on!” he exclaimed. Goh professed to be a panda fan and would try to see pandas when travelling. “Whenever I get a chance to visit zoos in other countries, I’ll definitely visit the panda enclosures. Thus far, I have seen pandas in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, and of course, Singapore!” he said, adding that he had already visited River Safari twice to see Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
The party planners then helped to transport the bamboos to the Giant Panda Forest back-of-house, where the cool bamboo storage room kept them fresh at a constant temperature of 16 to 20 degree Celsius. A sprinkler system keeps the bamboo moist and they can be stored for up to three days.
Over there, the party planners also learnt that Kai Kai and Jia Jia have five feedings a day, consisting of carrots, apples, pellets and up to 20 kilogrammes of bamboos. The panda keepers keep a close record of the pandas’ weight each day, as well as the amount of food intake and unfinished food. Even their faecal materials are weighed and graded.
Then came the time to get into more action! The party planners drew lots to decide who prepared the special birthday cake, and who would help to make xylophone toys for the furry duo.
The cake was made from yellow bamboos, sulphur bamboos, and decorated with bamboo shoots. As for the xylophone, the team had to use ropes to tie together bamboos of differing lengths. The end product created soothing melodious sounds that would no doubt, attract Kai Kai and Jia Jia! The party planners would get to present these birthday surprises to Kai Kai and Jia Jia during a private panda party event in a week’s time.
Getting Up Close and Personal
Soon, it was Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s lunchtime and the party planners could hardly contain their excitement as they approached the pandas’ enclosure to experience what it was like to be a panda keeper! Surrounded by curious onlookers, it was certainly an interesting experience for the party planners.
“It’s really cool; there were a lot of people looking at us so I felt like an exhibit!” shared 25-year-old project executive Lioe Hui Yi. “I’m really interested in the panda enclosure and am glad to get behind the scenes to see how everything works.”
35-year-old pre-school principal Jean Ong was smiling gleefully from the experience as she said, “It was unbelievably exciting and I felt as though I’m a panda keeper for a day! I went around searching for old bamboos so that the panda keepers can weigh them.”
Jasmine was also glad for the opportunity to enter the enclosure. She said, “I felt so privileged because not everyone can have such a chance to go into the enclosure! I felt so satisfied when I saw Kai Kai fed on the fresh bamboo we just placed inside!”
Let the Countdown Begin!
All that running around, hard work and scorching sun had hardly worn down the party planners, from the level of enthusiasm they still showed at the end of the preparation session.
Jean grinned brightly as she said “I want to say a big ‘Thank You!’ to CapitaLand for giving me this golden opportunity to be a panda party planner today!”
Violet was eager to share her birthday wish for Kai Kai and Jia Jia and said, “I hope they have a good time here in Singapore!”
All efforts ploughed in for the day would definitely be worthwhile when the party planners meet again in a week’s time for Kai Kai and Jia Jia’s much anticipated party!