Abe Nobuko: A Japanese Giant Panda Keeper’s Dream Life

Authors: Hello Chengdu


Abe Nobuko, a Japanese girl, works in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding as a giant panda keeper.
From a Panda Fan to a "Nanny"
In the eyes of a panda fan, each panda is unique. When two pandas appear in front of her, Abe is able to distinguish them from each other almost immediately. "This is called 'Ji Xiao' and this is 'Cheng Feng'. They look alike, but you will find subtle differences when you compare their facial hair, the size of the black eye circle and the position of their eyes," explained Abe. In the course of shifting her role from a panda fan who watches at a distance to a keeper who learns the animal's habits, Abe has changed her impressions on pandas, some of which she took for granted before. She still remembers the sharp claws and teeth and her fear when she got close and touched a giant panda for the first time for some years ago. "It didn't have mild and lovely eyes as I imagined, but the eyes of a bear," says Abe. "Encouraged by the keeper, I gathered my courage and gave a light stroke. It had hard and coarse hair."
As a professional keeper, Abe needs to formulate milk with vitamins and calcium in a pot as a primary food for the baby pandas according to their weight and physical conditions, apart from cleaning, feeding, and observation. This job requires care. Besides, the naughty baby pandas like to make life difficult. Abe would take up naughty little pandas, rub its head hair gently and pretend to educate it in a serious attitude. "It's not good. Do you understand?" She would strain her voice as if she were treating a human baby. Many outsiders think that being a panda keeper is a happy and relaxing job because "pandas are so cute". Every time she hears this opinion, Abe would object in a cute manner by waving her hands to suggest "not at all". "You only see pandas on TV when they play, but you don't know how heavy the babies are," she replies.
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