All eyes are on cute pandas Funi and Wang Wang as they chew nonchalantly on bamboo, unfazed by hundreds of excited visitors at Adelaide Zoo.
The pandas wander freely between their cool climate-controlled day rooms and landscaped outdoor enclosures designed to resemble a panda’s natural habitat with waterfalls, chilled rocks, caves and grassy areas.
It’s a bit like Monarto Zoo, only smaller.
Separating Funi and Wang Wang is a glass-panelled entrance to the pandas’ private rooms and where I meet keeper Steve McKee for the VIP Panda Tour.
The cool room is stocked with bamboo, pears, apples and carrots. But Funi’s favourite is panda cake made from flour, ground-up bamboo, eggs, salt, sugar and water.
The daily training programme is done in an area behind specially designed bars. The aim is to prepare the pandas for breeding in a couple of years.
Temperatures are taken twice a day and they are being trained to enable vets to draw blood once a week.
Funi is trained to lie down on her side so that the vet can perform an ultrasound without using anaesthetic. “The big thing at the moment is we’re trying to get her to urinate on cue,” says McKee.
Funi munches on the pear pieces which McKee puts in her mouth as rewards for standing, sitting and lying still. I lean through the bars to touch her stomach.
“You are a star bear,” says McKee.
Funi looks so pleased I’m sure she’s smiling.