China Recruits Pandas to Inspire Coronavirus Patients

Giant panda twins Mengbao and Mengyu are seen at their new home at the Beijing Zoo in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 13, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

CHENGDU (Xinhua) — In a chat group on WeChat, a patient made a wish: after recovering, he wanted to see giant pandas at the giant panda breeding base.

The patient is in a make-shift hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in central China’s Hubei Province.

When Zhang Zhihe heard about the wish, he was determined to make the dream come true in a “special” way.

“I wanted to make a video of the giant pandas so that the patient can see them,” said Zhang, director of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province. “I believe that the chubby bears will bring joy and strength.”

The number of captive pandas stood at 600 globally as of November last year. There are fewer than 2,000 pandas living in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi.

The project began on Sunday when Zhang and his team started to choose a panda for the video. They also wrote a script for the video, which included all the inspirational words they wanted to share with the patients.

The video’s star turned out to be female panda Chenglang. She was born only 42.8 grams and was about the size of a human thumb, making her the lightest giant panda baby at birth in the world.

Experts at the center had never seen such a small panda before and worried about her growth. Now, Chenglang has grown into a healthy female panda weighing 18.7 kg.

“When she drank milk for the first time, Chenglang displayed a strong sense for survival,” said a member of Zhang’s team. “This is why we chose her to be the leading character in the video: we want her to bring comfort, strength and confidence to the patients suffering from the virus infection.”

Zhang said all the giant pandas are waiting for patients to recover and visit them in Chengdu.

The video took 36 hours to make and will be presented to the patients soon.

“Besides the video, we also plan to do a live-streaming session for the patients,” said Zhang. “We hope to give inspiration to people through the images of the warm, cute pandas.”

“I am really touched by what they did for the patients,” said Li Xin, with Sichuan’s national emergency medical rescue team. “Even though the patients could only see the panda in the video, I am sure it will bring them comfort.”