Gert SKIPPER

Curator

About This Project

It was the moment we’d all been waiting for – the arrival of the Southern Hemisphere’s only Giant Pandas into Australia. On a windswept morning in November 2009, I waited with anticipation for the arrival of a Singapore Airlines 747 aircraft carrying precious cargo – Wang Wang and Fu Ni. As the aircraft landed, two and half years of meticulous planning came to fruition. It was exciting.

 

Wang Wang and Fu Ni’s journey began with successful negotiations between Zoos South Australia and the China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas. I was delighted to be appointed as part of a project group along with everyone from architects and builders, to keepers and visitor services staff.

 

As part of the logistics team, I travelled with a TV crew to Bifengxia, where Wang Wang and Fu Ni were housed. There, we fostered relationships with Chinese staff and planned all aspects of the trip. With two weeks to go, a team of keepers and vets travelled to China to learn from our colleagues. They then travelled back with the pandas, as did Wang Wang and Fu Ni’s keeper to help them acclimatise to their new home at Adelaide Zoo.

 

We still maintain an excellent relationship with our Chinese colleagues, with a reproductive specialist visiting Adelaide every year. Our fingers are always crossed for the pitter-patter of little panda paws, because it would be great for the region and the breeding program.

 

After working on the original plans to bring Wang Wang and Fu Ni to Australia, it’s incredibly rewarding to see the two pandas being powerful ambassadors for their species, educating visitors about the plight of Giant Pandas in the wild.

 

Gert Skipper is Curator of Collection Development for Zoos South Australia, Adelaide.

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