Sunday in Beijing and I feel the city is mine. The sky is a beautiful blue (yes, it does happen) and the sun is out. In two and a half weeks I have found a French bakery for cappuccinos, a restaurant I love called Hutong Pizza and I rode the subway. I’m making my way through the city with confidence. Today I decide to visit the zoo. Apparently so does the rest of China. This is not something to do if you get claustrophobic.
The Beijing Zoo is primitive with many animals in glass enclosures and cages. Visitors throw food and there are no moats so the animals often come right up to the fences. There are some very interesting antelope and a great collection of bugs and butterflies. There is also something I have never seen in a zoo before. Dogs!! In the children’s zoo there are different breeds of dogs. They are big and little and the kids can walk them.
I have come to the zoo to see the pandas. They are smaller than I expected and adorable. Ever since I met Suzanne Braden in Denver I have been more interested in them. Suzanne runs a non-profit organization called Pandas International (http://www.pandasinternational.org) and she is a force. For years she has been raising money for the panda breeding facility in Wolong that is working to insure the survival of the species. There are only 1600 left in the world and their habitat in Wolong took a terrible hit from the earthquake.
The pandas are a hugely popular attraction and people photograph them with cameras and cell phones even behind the glass. My NBC colleague, Mark Mullen, had a chance to visit Wolong a couple of times. The most recent experience was after the earthquake and his stories of hope and heartbreak appeared on Today and Nightly News with Brian Williams (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619/#25212574) He did a great stand up. He reported by a cute little bear and then he patted his head. Sublime!!
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