KUALA LUMPUR: An American couple’s “love affair” with giant pandas first started when they witnessed the birth of a cub via webcam in 2005.
William and Karom Burke from Honolulu, Hawaii, fell in love with the black-and-white ball of fluff named Tai Shan born at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.
“At that time, we had no knowledge of pandas. I thought it was a marsupial. It (Tai Shan) was so small.
“After that, we started looking for more information online to know more about pandas.
“I read up about Tai Shan every day. We also watched Tai Shan grow up through the webcam.
“We saw Tai Shan in 2007 before he was sent back to Sichuan province,” said Karom, 71, who was from the food and beverage industry.
Karom and William, 81, a retired teacher, are here to visit Nuan Nuan and her parents Xing Xing and Liang Liang at the Giant Panda Conservation Centre in Zoo Negara.
Liang Liang and Xing Xing arrived from China in 2014, as a symbol of 40 years of diplomatic relations between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.
Nuan Nuan was born in 2015 at Zoo Negara.
The Burkes said they have fond memories of the two giant panda parents when they were just cubs in China.
Karom said Liang Liang was rather anti-social as a toddler and remembered the panda hiding on top of a tree with her keepers coaxing her down.
Xing Xing, on the other hand, was very sociable.
The couple keep abreast of the two through their friend Chin Chet Mooi, who is the Malaysian “adopter” of Liang Liang.
William and Karom were over the moon when they heard about Nuan Nuan.
“We are so happy to be here. We always see them in pictures and updates that Chin posts. It is so overwhelming and it is worth all the effort coming to Malaysia.
“Liang Liang has changed so much; she is so loving as a mother and is in tune with the visitors here, while Nuan Nuan has grown so big,” said Karom.
William said he was happy to see the furry family doing well here.
“They are in good condition and the conservation centre is excellent,” he added.