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Adelaide Zoo's giant pandas

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Being a real animal lover, Kelly Landry couldn't wait to go to Adelaide Zoo for an up-close with their newest residents — Wang Wang and Funi, the giant pandas. They are the only two in the Southern Hemisphere and Australia's first permanent panda exhibition.

The pandas are on loan for 10 years and are two of just 30 outside of China. There are only around 1600 remaining in the wild and there are great hopes for Wang Wang and Funi to increase the depleting numbers.

The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake devastated Sichuan province causing the loss of around 70,000 lives as well as the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Centre, Wang Wang and Funi's home. Surviving pandas were transferred to another centre and received intensive care until they were once again happy and healthy.

Wang Wang and Funi were carefully chosen for their holiday in Australia because they are healthy, friendly and easy to handle. They are also considered to be an excellent genetic pairing for the giant panda breeding program. Any cubs they may have will be valuable additions to the population. Being solitary animals, they are confined to two separate areas but will live together when they reach mating stage.

The herbivores' ancestors have been walking the earth for 3 million years and have survived changes in natural environment as they have a great ability to adapt.

You can visit them in their new $8 million home which is complete with misting systems, chilled rocks and waterfalls. As you can imagine, they are drawing crowds, and you can join the throng, but for something really special, you are able to go on a behind-the-scenes tour.

Kelly joined keeper Simone Bailey and was able to lend a hand in the feeding process. It's a huge task with a diet that is strictly adhered to.

A panda cake is steamed for more than two hours and the pandas consume around 2kg of it every day. It's made of bamboo, eggs, flour, vitamins and calcium and they absolutely love it. They also have carrots, apples and as much bamboo as they can wrap their paws around.

Wang Wang is more outgoing than his partner. Funi prefers the air-conditioned comfort of her luxury home, but she is active and playful, intelligent and curious and makes excited noises at feeding time.

More than 1800 animals and around 300 species of exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish live at Adelaide Zoo. Their eight-hectare home is botanically beautiful and it really is a wonderful place to spend a day.

Adelaide Zoo, a 15-minute walk from the city centre.

Adelaide Zoo entry is $26 for adults and $15 for children. Children under four years of age enter free of charge. The zoo is open between 9.30am and 5pm every day. A one-hour behind-the-scenes tour of Panda Headquarters costs $495 per person.

There is a minimum age of 16 and a maximum of six people. They run on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 8am and 9.30am. Morning tea is included.

Group tours with a maximum number of 50 and a minimum age of six run between 8.30am and noon from Wednesday to Saturday. They cost $130 per person.

Virgin Blue has flights to Adelaide. One way fares start from:

Melbourne $79
Sydney and Canberra $129
Brisbane and Hobart $149
Perth $159
Darwin $239

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at February 11, 2010, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at February 11, 2010.

For further information
Virgin Blue
Ph: 136 789

Adelaide Zoo
Frome Road
Adelaide 5000
Ph: (08) 8267 3255
Fax: (08) 8239 0637

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