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Beyond the bamboo: What goes on behind the scenes at the Panda enclosure?

An upcoming tour at the River Safari, Panda Rise & Shine, will allow participants to have a look into the secret lives of Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

SINGAPORE: Ever wondered how River Safari pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia look when they've just woken up? Or what goes on in the panda den before River Safari opens?

You will get a chance to find out when Panda Rise & Shine - River Safari's newest behind-the-scenes tour - is launched as part of Panda Party week in September, marking the pandas' birthdays as well as their year here. The tour will give visitors access to previously inaccessible areas of the Giant Panda Forest such as the den, kitchen and bamboo storage room.

Mr Muhammad Helfi Moklis, a participant, said of the experience: "It's very rare occasion to just go inside the exhibition, and just give the pandas food." Another participant, Mr Hari Viknesh, added: "The main highlight was entering the pandas' den, because no one can enter, and mostly you just stand outside and look at pandas." 

The Panda Rise & Shine programme costs S$350 and is inclusive of River Safari admission. The learning journey concludes with breakfast, and participants get a T-shirt and goodie bag.

Ms Lok May Kuen, Director of Education at Wildlife Reserves Singapore, explained the hefty price tag: "This behind-the-scenes programme is our premium programme. Lots of preparation has gone into offering this experience. The keepers have to come in very early in the morning. The staff and the tour guides are also involved. So we are offering this at a premium price because it is a very exclusive programme."

The organisers expect a strong take-up rate for the programme, which will have two sessions a week starting on Sep 9. The personalised tour is launched in celebration of Kai Kai and Jia Jia's birthdays and second year in Singapore. 

Here's a sneak peek of the tour, from a media preview held on Wednesday (Aug 27). 

Kai Kai, the male among the pair, getting weighed.

Participants will get to prepare breakfast for the pandas. Their diet consists primarily of bamboo. To vary it, keepers also give carrots, apple and pellets - high fibre biscuits.

Participants will also get to make an enrichment toy for the panda. By hiding pieces of carrot among twigs, the pandas are made to work for their food. This toy also keeps them occupied.

Some exercise for Kai Kai. Actually, it's what his keepers call "sex-ercise" - making him stretch to strengthen his lower body, so he has the strength to mate.

Participants of the tour will get to bring bamboo leaves from the chiller into the exhibit, and place it around the den for the pandas to find.

Kai Kai heads into the exhibit, and heads straight for the enrichment toy made earlier.

Pay-off! Kai Kai tucking in on the snacks prepared by participants.

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