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Big day for Basi, the giant panda
By Li Dapeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-19 05:23

FUZHOU: Flowers, fruit, a huge cake and a tablet carved with the Chinese character "shou" meaning longevity were all prepared to celebrate Basi's birthday.

It is not clear if she appreciated all the fuss, though; giant pandas can't speak, even at the grand old age of 25.

Yesterday hundreds of visitors swarmed into Panda World in the capital city of east China's Fujian Province to join in a special birthday party for Basi.

Across the park everyone could hear a special song specially written for the occasion.

The panda walked around her pool and later, maybe shy in the face of so many enthusiastic visitors, went to her little cave to enjoy the cake.

Basi is well-known at home and abroad. In 1987, she was sent to San Diego in the United States for a six-month exhibition. She was also what "Panpan," the mascot of the 11th Asia Games, (held in Beijing in 1990) was based on.

Basi has already lived quite a long time; the average life of the giant wild panda is only 12 years.

"Mom is coming to see you!" called out an old woman. She saved the panda's life 21 years ago in Baoxing County in Sichuan Province.

Li Xingyu, now 50, recalled that when she was working on her farmland on a snowy day in 1984, she saw a panda floating down a stream, unconscious.

Li immediately pulled the creature up to the bank and warmed it with her thick jacket. The panda came to and was treated well by villagers.

The next day, the panda was sent to a professional breeding centre and was named after the Basi Creek, where she was saved.

"I haven't seen Basi since I saved her," said Li.

"I'm so happy to be invited here to see her and celebrate her birthday. I have four children, but Basi is my fifth child, my little daughter," Li said.

She brought fresh bamboo, apples and water from her home in Baoxing County as birthday presents for Basi.

A series of activities were held during the Second Fuzhou Panda Culture Festival, which started last month and ends today, to celebrate Basi's birthday.

A special website about the panda was launched last week and already more than 5,000 people have looked at it. Special stamps, postcards and calendars were also published for the big day.

Shu Ni, a 17-year-old student, one of the six winners in a selection of "love messengers for panda," told China Daily that she often went to Panda World to do voluntary work. "I think everything I do for giant pandas is significant," said Shu.

"I'm delighted to see that more and more people have started to concern themselves with the protection of the giant panda," said Chen Yucun, director of the Fuzhou Giant Panda Research Centre.

He added: "I believe human beings will surely get closer to giant pandas in the future."

(China Daily 12/19/2005 page3)

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