by Wang Aona, Hayati Nupus
JAKARTA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- A male panda called Cai Tao is chewing bamboo sticks, and sometimes climbs up a tree or rolls in the grass, while the female panda Hu Chun goes back and forth picking up carrots at the Panda Palace at Taman Safari located at Indonesia's Bogor district, around 75 km south of capital Jakarta.
The two giant pandas that have been living in the safari park since 2017 are heating up the celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year of the Tiger.
"Pandas have always been the main attraction for our visitors, and it's expected that more visitors will come during the celebration of the Chinese New Year," Chief Executive Official of Taman Safari Indonesia Daniel Hartono told Xinhua.
A group of children from the Rumah Ceria Bekasi orphanage were visiting the Panda Palace on their study tour. They cheered excitedly watching Hu Chun waddling and walking, picking up carrots and then sitting on a rock to enjoy the food.
"Pandas are cute, one of my favorite animals. Their fur looks very soft," said 17-year-old Suryana Saputri Wulandari, one of the group members.
Wulandari got to know pandas through cartoons and films, including the animation Kung Fu Panda, which she has watched many times. When she heard of the trip to the Panda Palace, Wulandari felt so excited that she gave much thought to the outfit she was going to wear to look good in the photos with the pandas.
"I really like Cai Tao. He is the funny one of the two," said Wulandari.
Ardyta Widianti, one of the doctors taking care of the pandas, said that the two pandas differ in character, with Cai Tao more active and always running around, and Hu Chun quieter and calmer.
"They have favorite spots to eat or rest. If they are lazy (and don't want) to meet the visitors, they will hide in their caves," Widianti said. Besides bamboo sticks, their favorite food is the panda cake made of corn, rice, soybeans, and eggs.
Siti Aisyah and her husband brought their 3-year-old son to the Panda Palace, and were all amazed by the various elements of the Chinese culture presented there.
"The architecture is Chinese-style with cornices and skylights, and the red couplets and festival decorations really warm up the whole place. We really feel like we are in China," said Aisyah, a lover of lion dances and Chinese films who hopes to visit the country for real one day.
The Panda Palace also provides a mixture of Chinese and Indonesian cuisine on the second floor. The panda-shaped bread is an all-time best seller.
This year, a tiger-themed photo booth and a children's painting contest will enliven the Panda Palace. Also, a lion dance and a performance with dancers in Chinese costumes will welcome visitors at the entrance of the safari park.
The local Sumatran tigers at the lion and tiger enclosure also echo the Year of the Tiger, and in the zone, goodie bags are prepared for lucky visitors.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the safari park had up to 17,000 visitors on busy weekends, but it was closed temporarily twice when the COVID situation worsened.
Since late last year when the situation eased in the country, the number of visitors coming on weekends was recorded at around 4,000, and even 8,000 at the beginning of this year when people felt freer to travel.
"The Chinese New Year also provides a special moment for many Indonesian people. We hope the new year will bring good fortune to the park and to us all," said Hartono.