Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chi Chi The Giant Panda

My grandparents in Wembley often took us to museums when we were children.
My most vivid memories of these trips are the Natural History Museum, the RAF museum in Hendon, travelling on Underground trains with wooden floors,
and the long walk back to their house at the end of an exhausting day
along the 'longest road in the world', Carlton Avenue East.

And what I remember most clearly about the Natural History Museum
was seeing Chi Chi the giant panda.

Going to see Chi Chi was an 'event'.
The diorama intrigued me.
Is that what China really looked like?
And why is she sitting eating? Is that what pandas do all day?
And why that yellow! That yellow has stayed with me.

I went back to the Natural History Museum recently with my kids and there was Chi Chi.
The same diorama, the same yellow.
I was excited, I could say to my kids,
"I saw that when I was a girl, that same Panda, that same yellow.
It looked just like that when I was your age."

Looking at the lettering used for 'Chi Chi', very seventies looking, I feel I am probably right.
Nothing has changed.

 Chi Chi was caught in China in 1957. After being kept in a number of different Zoos, she came to London Zoo in 1958 where she lived until 1972 when she died of old age.
They tried, unsuccessfully, to get her to mate and have babies.

So her legacy is not one of children, grandchildren
and helping to increase the panda population.
It is as a natural history specimen, to be wondered and marvelled at
by generations of visitors to the Natural History Museum.

But this visit was with a knowledgeable uncle
who used to work at the Natural History Museum.
None of that talk of yellow walls and seventies lettering.
We got animal facts.

"Pandas are unusual, not like other bears, because they have an opposable thumb, like us, for stripping the bamboo so they can eat it. Other bears haven't got opposable thumbs.
They're weird because they eat vegetation all the time, not what other bears eat,
they're omnivores. They have a very restricted diet.
I think you're asking for trouble if you're a panda with a restricted diet of fresh bamboo
and not much else!"

Don't hold me responsible for the factual accuracy of the above statement,
we were just having a chat.
If I did see Chi Chi alive in London Zoo, I was too young to remember it.
I will ask my parents.

Opening times and details here


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...