Chiang Mai, the 27th of May 2010 [PDN]: Hundreds of fans flocked to celebrate Linping’s first birthday at the Chiang Mai Zoo on Wednesday, the animal having somewhat of a cult following amongst the Thai people, especially those in the Northern provinces. Linping’s presence is thought to have brought over Bt20 million in revenue to the popular Chiang Mai Zoo.
Zoological Park Organisation (ZPO) director Sophon Damnui stated the Linping has now reached a healthy 36 kilograms in weight, an average weight for a panda cub of the same age. Having been nursed through ‘toddlerhood’ by the loving Chiang Mai zookeepers, Linping is now beginning to eat fruit, bamboo and sugar cane as well as drinking her mother’s milk.
Since the unexpected birth of Linping by her mother Lin Hui in May last year – the zoo had been attempting to artificially inseminate Lin Hui but all attempts were thought to have failed – the panda cub has become a star attraction for the zoo. People, both local and foreign flock in through the turnstiles to get a glimpse of Linping, the first Thai born panda. Linping has gathered somewhat of a cult following with the Thai people, even more so since the screening of a reality-TV show documenting her life with mother Lin Hui at the zoo.
Locals sent postcards and letters in a competition to name the newborn panda cub, with Lin picked as it is the first syllable from her mothers name and Ping, selected out of millions of entrants, is the name of Chiang Mai’s main river. Lin Hui and her male companion Chuang Chuang were cordially temporarily given to Thailand by the Chinese over 6 years ago in a deal that has seen them become ambassadors of friendship between the two countries. However, the pair of pandas must be returned to China in 2013.
Unfortunately, in the terms of the deal with China, Linping’s stay in the kingdom may be short-lived as the contract stipulates that any panda cub born by Lin Hui must be returned to China within two years of birth. The Thai government is currently seeking an extension of Linping’s stay.