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Panda diplomacy or a disaster in the making?

 | June 15, 2012

Construction work to house these giant creatures at Putrajaya Wetlands Park has yet to get off the ground.

PUTRAJAYA: “As Malaysia rolls out the red carpet for the pandas, it is hoped that China’s panda diplomacy can also help ease political tensions in the country,” said an online report in the Star.

But what seems to be harbingers of peace, looks more likely, if not already, fodder for more discontent in the country over the RM20 million spent to secure the two pandas on a 10-year loan from China.

The report also stated that these pandas will “have to be kept in special enclosures being built at the wetlands park in Putrajaya.”

However, a visit to the Putrajaya wetlands yesterday revealed something interesting. When a staff was asked about the encloure that is to be built for these pandas, the reply was: “No area has been designated or decided on yet, and construction hasn’t started.”

Six delegates from China together with representatives from Jabatan Perhilitan, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and FRIM toured the wetlands yesterday to determine the enclosure for the pandas (photo below).

That sum already has many quarters all hot and bothered. So much for easing political tensions in the country. The online report, however, was optimistic, saying “the returns in the form of gate collection, research and diplomacy, far outweighs the cost.”

It makes one wonder how much the public will be charged to gawk at these pandas when they are ready for public viewing in five months time.

Currently, there is no fee to enter the park and you only pay for the rental of bicycles and kayaks and there is a RM5 per person fee for a personal tour of a park, for a group of 10.

Make no mistake that the Putrajaya Wetlands is beautiful place. The grounds are carefully manicured, the surrounding structures absent of peeling paint, and the washrooms pristine.

There is a well-constructed 18-metre lookout point, shady picnic areas and well-thought out paths that will surely make leisure walking an experience.

Being as the only visitor yesterday, there was a sense of eerie calm. But the question to ask is how much good RM20 million could do for the zoos in our country, which any Malaysian will tell you is in need of serious cash and upgrades.

Putrajaya Wetlands Park in Putrajaya, is believed to be the largest constructed freshwater wetlands in the tropics. It houses the Wetlands Park (Taman Wetland) and the other Wetlands areas.

Its website states, “Taman Wetland is also a wildlife sanctuary which attracts a huge variety of animals to the combined terrestrial-aquatic wetland environment. The park’s lake is also home to a pair of hippopotamus from Africa.”

When asked if there are any animals at the wetlands, a staff member smiled sheepishly and said  that there were none, just a nature walk and wet park.

A drive around the park wasn’t very helpful either as there were several roads that were cordoned off.

Also read:

Giant panda – an ‘elephant’ in the room


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