On December 1, 2013, Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States, delivered a televised speech celebrating the first 100 days of a giant panda cub born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The cub was named Bao Bao, which means “precious treasure”. In her speech, Mrs. Obama touched upon the panda diplomacy history between China and the United States since 1972, saying passionately, “After decades of dose collaboration with our Chinese partners, these remarkable animals stand as a symbol of the growing connections between our two countries”. At each mention of giant pandas, Michelle Obama always wore a broad smile, impressing the television audience.
The American First Lady visited China in late March this year and traveled to Chengdu specifically to visit the giant pandas. Her mother and two daughters accompanied her on the trip.
Mrs. Obama’s flight landed at Chengdu’s Shuangjiu International Airport on March 24, 2014 and local children presented her with a toy panda as she walked down the gangway ladder: Her delight in the gift was evident as she could hardly bear to put it down.
Michelle and her family visited the world-famous Chengdu Reseach Base of Giant Panda Breeding on the morning of March 26, accompanied by Dr. Zhang Zhihe, the director of the Chengdu Panda Base as they toured. They first visited the Giant Panda Cub Enclosure. Mrs. Obama used a bamboo pole to feed apple enrichment to six pandas. She then went to the Giant Panda Kindergarten in the Sunshine Nursery House to visit the giant panda cubs that were born in 2013. These six to seven month-old pandas were exceptionally cute, so Michelle Obama and her family stood and watched for a long time. She also made certain to visit the American-born panda, Mei Lan, in addition to the Sunshine Nursery House.
During the visit, Dr. Zhang Zhihe shared the history and mission of the Chengdu Panda Base with Mrs. Obama and her family. He explained that the Chengdu Panda Base was established in 1987 and is internationally the most well-known conservation and research institution for research and breeding, conservation education, tourism education, panda culture, and reintroduction training for both giant pandas and other endangered species. With other research including panda genetics, nutrition, and disease pathology, Chengdu Panda Base has the world’s largest captive-bred population of 128 giant pandas through ex-situ conservation efforts.
Michelle Obama signed the guestbook after she took photos with the giant pandas at the end of the visit. Her message read, “Thank you for an amazing visit. My family and I very much enjoyed our time here. We are grateful for your tremendous effort to protect and nurture this special animal. Keep up the great work!”
Michelle Obama and her two daughters bought panda T-shirts and a panda doll at the gift shop before they left the Chengdu Panda Base. The family left the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding after a pleasant day, Michelle’s bright smile a lasting reminder of the joy giant pandas bring to humanity.