'Pambassadors' Help Promote Survival of Giant Pandas
'Pambassadors' Help Promote Survival of Giant Pandas

Perhaps the best known symbol of China to the rest of the world is the giant panda.  The large black and white furry creatures are one of the most endangered species on earth.  Six people have been chosen in a global contest to become so-called "Pambassadors" and promote panda conservation and diplomacy.

The Chengdu Panda Research Center in China's central Sichuan province has been caring for and breeding giant pandas since 1987 when large areas of bamboo died off in the region.  Just 1,600 giant pandas are thought to be living in the wild, and around 200 are in captivity.  The Chengdu Panda Research Base has nearly 100.

With the World Wildlife Fund, the Chengdu Research Center launched "Project Panda," winch included a contest to select six people to be "Pambassadors."  The winners were chosen from more than 60,000 applicants worldwide, and represent Sweden, the United States, France, China, Japan, and Taiwan.

Ali Shakorian is a finalist from Sweden.  "I wish I could do it all the time.  Really it is so amazing to feed the pandas.  They are such delicate creatures," he said  "They give you so much love back when you feed them.  They are like so happy to eat like the apples, the cake."

The finalists all help taking care of the pandas just like the staff at the research center.  That includes making the special panda cake during their month-long stay.

American Ashley Robertson likes the aroma of the ingredients.  "A bit like there are some flower seeds in it and you smell them. It makes me want to eat some."

The Pambassadors will help in the effort to raise awareness for giant panda protection.  They will be expected to take an active role in promoting a more sustainable existence to the public and media.

The task does not seem too difficult for Annelijn Steenbruggen of the Netherlands.  "I am so excited and I cannot explain (it) in words!  If you can feel my heart beating you will know how excited I am," she said.  "I have everywhere chicken skin (goose bumps) because of my excitement and I feel so...they are so cute!  They are so lovely!"

Pandas, which eat mostly bamboo and doze frequently, are notoriously hard to breed. China's breeding centers have even shown the pandas suggestive videos to help motivate the stubborn animals to mate.