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Panda Chi Chi-The Panda Inspired WWF Logo

In 1961, at a WWF preparatory meeting, members of the committee sat around a large ornate table and invariably chose a giant panda as the organization’s logo.

Although it took only 20 minutes to reach a consensus on the emblem, more than half a century later, this humble and cute panda logo started appearing in various public places such as public service advertisements and events, and it became one of the most popular images of giant pandas.

Unfortunately, many people do not know that the prototype of this cute logo is a giant panda named Chi Chi (English name: Chi Chi).

Not only it has a legendary destiny and a love life pictured in soap operas, but it also bears the political significance of that era.

Its life may just be much more exciting than many human beings.

May 1958 was of extra significant for the Beijing Zoo, as a group of animals from Africa (including three giraffes, two rhinos, two hippos and two zebras) was about to arrive in Beijing.

Prior to this, although there were rare animals such as golden monkeys, snow leopards, and budorcas taxicolor in the park, most of them were from China and it was difficult to show the diversity of the earth’s animals.

The person who transported the animals was not a diplomat, but an Austrian animal trader named Heine Zimmer.

The Zoological Society of Chicago and the United States reached an agreement with him, so long as he could get a giant panda, he will be paid $ 25,000.

As a result, for this trip to China, he came with “commercial purposes” – he hoped for an exchange of these African animals for a giant panda.

The zoo’s leader welcomed the presence of Zimmer, and not only readily agreed to the replacement request, but also allowed him to choose one of the three pandas.

Despite the prejudice against animal traders, Zimmer was still a kind-heart person and he was caring to animals.

The following week, Zimmer was staying with the pandas. He observed their habits and tried to get close to them as quickly as possible.

Soon enough, the youngest female panda began to allow him to enter the cage. The panda was Chi Chi.

He later recalled, “it had a broken soul and it was looking for someone to rely on. I felt that it had perceived me as a good friend.”

As a result, Chi Chi has become the only giant panda in exchange in China since the founding of the PRC.

Theoretically speaking, if he got a panda successfully, the transaction was considered to be half successful, but when he was about to send Chi Chi to the United States, he was dumbfounded.

At the time of the Cold War, the United States imposed transportation controls on China, and of course, pandas were also within the scope of control.

Because of Chi Chi’s “communist” background, the US government barred them from entering.

In the face of an ideological struggle, everything would be given a political meaning, even if it was just a panda.

In desperation, Zimmer had to take Chi Chi around Europe.

They first stayed at the Moscow Zoo for ten days. This place has special significance for Chi Chi, as it had lived there for six months a year ago, and we’ll come back for this part a bit later.

Immediately after they arrived in Berlin, although the first brick of the Berlin Wall had not yet been laid, it already took a lot of paperwork to transport Chi Chi from East Berlin to West Berlin.

Then he went to Frankfurt and Copenhagen, and the last stop was London. Everywhere they went, they created a big scene, and they received strong attention from the local media and the public. They also accumulated a lot of popularity along the way.

According to the original plan, Chi Chi would only stay at the London Zoo for three weeks, but it remained her home forever in 1972 when she passed away.

At the beginning of September 1958, Chi Chi arrived in the United Kingdom at the time when western animal variety shows were getting famous. A British show titled “Animal Time” has filmed many animal stars and was very popular at that time.

Don’t get me wrong, this program was not that forced animals to perform abusive performances, but it actually asked professional teams to come to the scene to shoot, with a breeder to help on the side. It was hosted by a Harvard PhD in zoology, and was a very professional show.

Since its launch in 1956, not only did “Animal Time” give rise to the fame of many celebrities, but it also aroused the enthusiasm of the UK citizens to visit the zoo.

Thousands of visitors went to the park to watch their favorite animal stars, and the London Zoo successfully regained its former prosperity after World War II.

Chi Chi, who became famous as soon as she arrived in Europe, was naturally spotted on by television companies.

At that time, the Zoological Society of London also wanted to keep Chi Chi. After all, it had left China with the consent of the government, and she couldn’t go to the United States for a while either. It was impossible to keep such rare animals wandering around.

After a series of discussion, the two countries decided to make a joint investment and pay the animal dealer Zimmer a £12,000 commission to settle Chi Chi at the London Zoo.

Here, Chi Chi lived a wonderful life. It not only occupied a spacious “dormitory”, equipped with a “private housekeeper” (administrator) to take care of her daily life, but she could also lie on ice in the summer to enjoy the coolness of the water mist from the roof.

In terms of Chi Chi’s diet, as she didn’t like to look the bamboo provided by the Zoological Society, an old colonel who lived in the Menabili Manor voluntarily petitioned, and he regularly chopped fresh and tender bamboo with the local boy scouts and sent them to the zoo.

Nevertheless, bamboo only accounted for one-third of Chi Chi’s daily diet. The zoo also prepared extra porridge for Chi Chi, such as milk, fruit, sweet potatoes, steak, chicken, etc., and she could also enjoy a bit of “desserts” after each meal. 

In terms of food, Chi Chi ate more than others, making her the only panda in the world who loved chocolate and tea.

But is this lifestyle really suitable for pandas? That doesn’t seem to be the case today.

Based on health concerns, the diet of artificial breeding of pandas should be based on bamboo and supplemented with a small amount of other ingredients.

This could allow pandas to eat enough bamboo to ensure having enough energy for their daily activities.

However, Chi Chi, who spent most of her time eating porridge and sleeping, rarely moved at all. She did not care about people, and even the staff who shot “Animal Time” had no solutions for this.

Although there was a steady number of tourists who went to see the pandas in the zoo every day, they had to be really lucky to actually see Chi Chi playing.

Of course, this isn’t something to be blame on the London Zoo. After all, for the zoology community at that time, pandas were still a very unfamiliar animal to them,  and they had no breeding experience at all. In the 1990s, experts from China and the United States worked together to develop a set of rules for the “nutrition of panda”.

Anyway, from the day of entering the park, Chi Chi had been like a spoilt child and she had been pampered until the last moment of her life. She passed away when she was 15, and lived the longest life among all the pandas in captivity.

“Political Marriage” under the Cold War

If you ask whether there were any regrets or troubles throughout Chi Chi’s life, it would be her love life.

In the late autumn of 1960, Chi Chi became more beautiful than usual, her hair was soft and shiny, and her temperament was not the same as before. It was even more attentive and clingy to its administrators, and it had the same behavior in the next autumn.

Its administrator was a handsome young man, especially after wearing a leather coat, he somewhat looked like the movie star Marlon Brando.

People then realized that it was time to find a companion for Chi Chi, as she always stayed alone in her pen and she would undoubtedly get lonely.

But this is not an easy task. First of all, it is not easy to find out the panda’s gender. The verification process can be tedious and risky.

Before, the Soviet Union had created a trouble for this matter.

Before being brought to Europe by Zimmer, Chi Chi was sent to the Moscow Zoo as a diplomatic gift with a giant panda named Ping Ping.

At that time, the Soviet Union side mistakenly thought that Ping Ping was a female panda, and thought that reproduction wouldn’t be possible. After a short while, they proposed to the Chinese side to return Chi Chi, and the Chinese government replaced Ping Ping with a male panda named An An.

After An An arrived in Moscow, not only he failed to mate with Ping Ping, but they also fought very often. It wasn’t until Ping Ping’s death in 1961 that people finally found out that Ping Ping was a male panda.

When Chi Chi first arrived in Britain, the British side only heard that it was a female but they did not confirm it. They only found out her gender in 1964, when Chi Chi accidentally scratched her eyes with bamboo and had to undergo anesthesia during an operation. The zoo had the opportunity to check its gender and find her “husband”.

At that time, there were only a few pandas in Europe, and An An in Moscow became the first choice. However, if they wanted to promote a blind date, the British side had to overcome every obstacle.

After all, during the Cold War, there were many stories of couples who lived on different sides of the Berlin Wall. Young couples even had to dig through underground channels to see each other, or they had to hold up their newborn babies and show them to their grandparents.

In order to send Chi Chi to Moscow to meet with An An, Britain and the Soviet Union had negotiated many times, and they’d obtained the permission of a number of high-level leaders. They even alarmed the defense and security departments of the two countries, during which the Soviet Union once believed that the entire panda incident was a cover for a British conspiracy of infiltration of spies.

In January 1966, after the two sides initially finalized the action plan, the news of Chi Chi’s trip to the Soviet Union spread wildly. The major British newspapers immediately used it as an image and drew a lot of political satire cartoons. They even gave Chi Chi the title of “Cold Way Baby”.

In the eyes of people, Chi Chi is not just an animal, but also a symbol of the combination of East and West and the collision of two ideologies. The pure breeding of rare animals in the eyes of zoologists has become an entirely different matter under political pressure.

In March, Chi Chi finally flew to Moscow to meet An An in a passenger plane specially modified for this purpose. After the release of comics specifically made for this encounter, this matter has become the focus of various media.

Reporters were paying close attention to its every move and were always ready to report any mating actions of the pandas as attractive news. If they mated, reporters would even put it as a headline.

The headlines of the Western newspapers at that time would absolutely make most of the medias nowadays envious.

Unfortunately, this blind date didn’t go well. The two pandas didn’t get along with each other at all, and they parted.

However, the British Zoological Society did not give up, and it arranged a second pairing of the two, although it ended up in vain as well. When Chi Chi left the Soviet Union, experts analyzed the reason for the failure, and thought that Chi Chi might have perceived herself as a human being, after being with them for a long time. That’s why they hung up a mirror in the pen and let her get used to the way she looked.

Final mission

In the spring of 1972, Chi Chi fell ill, and people across the whole Britain were very worried about her health. During that time, newspapers and television stations received a large number of letters asking about her health.

The BBC decided to ask the host of the show “National” to call the zoo in front of the camera and ask about Chi Chi’s health.

The person who picked up the phone was Tony Dale of the Public Relations Office of the Zoological Society of London. He sounded very optimistic, “when we went to see her last time, she had just drunk some tea before returning to her bedroom for a nap. She’s now sleeping and was even happily waving her feet. “

But the actual situation is that he had no idea whether Chi Chi could survive that summer, as she was already 15 years old and it’s quite old for a panda.  

As Chi Chi’s physical condition continued to deteriorate, the zoo began to contact well-known animal planners, zoologists, medical scientists, and specimen makers to prepare for a “follow-up” for her death.

In mid-July, Chi Chi reached the end of her life, at this time, she became very ill and was unable to eat. Soon after the zoo closed on Friday, doctors gave Chi Chi an injection of stabilizers, but they still couldn’t save her from suffering. Finally, at 3 am on Saturday, Chi Chi left the world.

On Sunday, media and people across Britain mourned for the death of Chi Chi.

Compared with the sad public, the Zoological Society acted more rationally. After Chi Chi fell asleep forever, pathologists dissected its remains.

Ophthalmologist Potter Dartnor studied Chi Chi’s eyeballs and found out that the world of pandas is actually in colors.

The Zoological Society of London had the whole page of the journal and published the report of Chi Chi’s body inspection and related essays about its blood, gastric juice, gastrointestinal tract, breasts, etc. These materials had answered a lot of doubts in the scientific field of panda studies.

This has marked the last mission of Chi Chi’s life – to teach human beings more about pandas.

Specimen makers sutured its bones and skins, and made specimens of her. Nowadays, visitors can still see it sitting on the ground eating bamboo in the North Hall of the Natural Museum of London.

This animal, bound with various symbols and political images all her life, finally stayed in the world forever as a giant panda.

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