Ocean Park's shy red pandas prepare to live in public gaze

Amy Nip

The four red pandas at Ocean Park are learning to live in the public gaze as the theme park prepares to open its new attraction on Thursday.

The four pandas arrived from Sichuan last month and were moved to the Amazing Asian Animals exhibit four days ago after spending a month in quarantine.

Howard Chuk Hau-chung, the park's senior curator, said yesterday that the pandas were adapting well to the new environment. He spotted them marking their territory on the walls with their body smell.

'Only when they find a place good and comfortable will they mark it with their scent,' he explained.

The fluffy animals, which resemble raccoons more than giant pandas, have been rubbing their bottoms on the walls to leave their scent.

To help the red pandas adapt to different types of sounds, trainers have tried raising their voices and clapping their hands to check the reaction of the animals.

The pandas were also encouraged with apples, their favourite snack, to visit different corners of the theme park's new exhibit.

'We hope they build up confidence through the training. Their species is kind of shy,' he said.

Before the attraction opens, staff will play the role of tourists to help the pandas adapt to visitors.

The curator gave tips on how the public could distinguish the four animals - Tai Shan, Rou Rou, Cong Cong and Li Zi.

The males, Tai Shan and Cong Cong, are bigger than their female counterparts. Cong Cong's hair is shinier and redder, and he is braver than Tai Shan, who looks cautious when he moves around. Rou Rou has a distinctive posture: tilting her head when looking at her trainers. Li Zi has a face that resembles a chestnut.

Meanwhile, pandas Le Le and Ying Ying have also moved into the new exhibit. The Amazing Asian Animals attraction will also be home to Chinese giant salamanders, Chinese alligators, otters, birds and turtles.