Birthday cheer as panda parents' visa extended
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY wishes to Chuang Chuang, the handsome giant panda of Chiang Mai Zoo who turned 14 on Wednesday.
The Zoological Park Organisation of Thailand took the opportunity to announce good news from China: It’s agreed to let Chuang Chuang and his mate Lin Hui stay in Thailand for another 10 years.
It’s just a preliminary agreement at this stage, but a final contract is anticipated in the next few months.
Their future here has been uncertain since last year, when their daughter Lin Ping bid adieu to Thailand, the country of her birth, to seek out a mate of her own back in China. Lin Ping’s departure left a generation of Thai panda lovers in deep mourning, buoyed only by the hope that she would eventually return, with her mate. But that plan also meant that Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui would be going back to China for good.
The panda’s presence here is costing Thai taxpayers a lot of money, of course, and between the strict regulations that China imposes and the political turmoil here, nothing was concrete until the announcement this week. Unfortunately we still don’t know what’s happening with Lin Ping, who’s now five, other than she’s adapted happily to life in the Middle Kingdom.
She first stayed at the Bifenxia Panda Conservative Centre before relocating to the new Dujiangyan Field Research Centre for Giant Pandas near Chengdu. It’s not yet open to public, but occasional updates trickle out to her Thai fans.
Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui came to Thailand when he was three and she was two. The veterinarians at the zoo were naturally hoping for a natural childbirth, but pandas are notorious for going into heat and then just scoffing at the humans staring at them. No sex, please, we’re pandas, giant in everything but lust. Artificial insemination ensued, as did superstar offspring Lin Ping, but all subsequent efforts to get her a sibling have come to nought.
Surprise in the sharing
Another superstar in Thai pop culture, though this time quite human, actor Nadech Kugimiya has built a remarkable reputation and a heck of a bank account on the back of his popularity – but he never forgets to share the wealth.
Nadech and his mother, Sudarat Kugimiya, recently paid a visit to Meg Dong Ruang School in Udon Thani’s Nong Harn district and casually donated Bt320,000 for a new building.
When they were leaving, an elderly woman in tears threw herself at the actor, bestowing a big hug and kiss and thanking him repeatedly for his help. But it had nothing to do with the donation to the school.
It turned out that Nadech and his mum had given the women’s niece a “scholarship” to study hairdressing. The girl’s teacher had told them how she’d always taken great care of her grandparents but didn’t have much in the way of career prospects. So Nadech and Sudarat arranged to support her so she could get a solid job and continue looking after her grandparents.
This lovely little tale would have gone unobserved had it not become an Instagram moment. The mass media duly noted Nadech’s donation to the school, but only when a friend of his manager snapped a photo of Nadech and the grateful aunt and posted it online did anyone know it had happened.