Before the end of summer more than 100,000 school children will have seen the two giant panda bears residing at the Auckland zoo, despite opposition from the World Wildlife Fund and the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
The two pandas, Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao, are on display until mid-January when they will return to the Baishuijiang Natural Reserve where they were born. Both Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao were rescued as babies, found starving on the edges of the reserve.
Murray Mitchell, executive director of the New Zealand office of the World Wildlife Fund, says he doesn’t approve of the panda visit at all, but because New Zealand is at the end of a world tour for the pandas “we decided not to do anything placing an injunction on the visit.”
Head keeper at the zoo Mick Sibley believes the case would be different if the pandas were of breeding age. He believes the fact that pandas are endangered—less than 800 are believed to survive in the wild—will impress the 250,000 expected visitors to the zoo, and may cause them to consider their own endangered species. This cause is helped by the Forest and Bird Society which sets up a stall at the zoo on weekends, drawing attention to the giant weta, kakapo, black stilt, black robin, and kokako—some of our most threatened species. Mick Sibley believes that after this zoo visit “100,000 kids will be talking conservation.”