I visited Zoo Berlin on August 19 & 20, 2012.
The report of my last visit to Bao Bao is also a tribute to my dearest panda friend.
I love all pandas, but Bao Bao will be forever my number 1 panda. This was my 12th visit to Zoo Berlin and the 13th time that I saw Bao Bao.
Bao Bao was the last surviving panda of the generation of goodwill gifts from the Chinese Government to Western leaders. He arrived at Zoo Berlin in West Germany on November 5, 1980 with Tian Tian as a gift from Hua Guofeng to the German Bundeskanzler Helmut Schmidt.
Mating attempts between Bao Bao & Tian Tian were unsuccessful and the zoo planned to artificially inseminate Tian Tian, but she died suddenly on February 8, 1984.
Bao Bao remained alone for 7 years in Berlin until November 14, 1991, when he was loaned to the London Zoo to breed with Ming Ming. It was in London, in April 1993, that I met Bao Bao for the first time.
Mating attempts between Bao Bao & Ming Ming were unsuccessful and the Berliner Panda Bear Bao Bao returned to his home on May 26, 1993.
A new female panda, Yan Yan, arrived in Berlin on April 14, 1995. My first visit to Zoo Berlin was in February 1996.
It was amazing to see the pandas in the snow.
Numerous attempts were made to artificially inseminate Yan Yan, without success.
During my visit in April 2000, I met Bao Bao’s keeper Lutz for the first time. Impressed by my passion for pandas he gave me an amazing opportunity during my visit in August 2001. I could not believe my ears when he told me I could feed Bao Bao. It was my first close interaction with a giant panda.
In August 2002 & 2004, I saw Bao Bao in Berlin’s tiger enclosure (without tigers of course), so both pandas had some more space.
In these years I’ve met the panda keepers Nicole & Detlev, who were also always very kind to welcome my family and me and to talk about Bao Bao and his adventures.
In February 2008, I took the future mother of my children to see Bao Bao. Our first panda trip with our son Luca was also to Berlin in December 2008.
In December 2009, Bao Bao’s enclosure became a Winter Wonderland again and I loved to see my favorite beautiful bear again in the snow.
On November 5, 2010 Zoo Berlin celebrated the 30th anniversary of Bao Bao’s arrival.
No panda has ever lived this long outside of China.
It was also my son Tibo’s first panda trip.
In December 2011, I was so happy to see my 2 sons feeding Bao Bao…
For years I knew Bao Bao was getting old. But he stayed an amazing panda personality. The way he walked, his nice and fluffy head, seeing him eating his favorite treats, Bao Bao always made me smile.
In the past few months his body started to show some signs of his old age.
When we arrived in the early evening of Sunday August 19, 2012 Bao Bao was sleeping in his outside yard, his home for almost 32 years. When he woke up, he turned around and looked at me for a few minutes, and then he slowly walked to the corner of his enclosure. Bao Bao gave me the impression of being very tired.
Around opening time on Monday August 20, 2012 Bao Bao was still laying/sleeping in the same corner, where he stayed until we returned home. A few times he looked up, but it was clear to me that my favorite panda was ready to go… Bao Bao looked with the same look to me as my grandmother did 2 days before she died…
With much pain in my heart we said goodbye to Bao Bao for the last time and with much more pain I have read the news of him passing away on the morning of Wednesday August 22, 2012.
Bao Bao was the 4th giant panda that I met. As of today Zoo Berlin is the zoo that I have visited the most (12 times). Bao Bao is the first panda that I have seen in 2 different zoos (London & Berlin). Bao Bao is the panda that I have seen the most (13 times). He was the first panda of my sons Luca & Tibo and I will never forget all the special moments with him.
Bao Bao is the panda that will keep a special place in my heart forever; he will always stay my number 1 panda… And I am sure he will watch over me, while we will keep trying to make a difference in panda conservation…
I will miss you Bao Bao!
Pambassador Jeroen Jacobs