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KPBS Spotlights Year in the Life of Zhen Zhen

As the fourth in the line of what has become San Diego’s royal family, the Giant Panda cub Zhen Zhen’s opening year of life was marked by not only her milestones, but those of her siblings, as well

     As the fourth in the line of what has become San Diego’s royal family, the Giant Panda cub Zhen Zhen’s opening year of life was marked by not only her milestones, but those of her siblings, as well as the massive earthquake in China that devastated the Giant  Panda breeding center closely tied to the San Diego Zoo’s conservation efforts.

   Since making her entrance into this world, Zhen Zhen has captivated zoo and “panda cam” visitors with her antics and charm, all the while representing the hope for the future of this endangered species. KPBS cameras have been there along the way, from birth to birthday, giving viewers behind-the-scenes access to China’s cuddly ambassadors in “Panda Tales,” airing September 7 at 8 p.m. on KPBS. 

 “Panda Tales” weaves together a story highlighting a time of excitement and learning – but not just for Zhen Zhen. A decade ago, the panda population in the wild was dangerously dwindling due to a low reproductive rate, a disappearing habitat and vanishing food sources. Thanks to knowledge gleaned partially through the zoo’s research, pandas at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center and Reserve in China, one of the San Diego’s partners in conservation, now mate naturally, and successfully nurture and raise their offspring. In the past 10 years, the population there has quadrupled.  

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   Amid the story of Zhen Zhen’s progress, an unexpected storyline emerged nine months into filming. A massive earthquake in China on May 12 struck in the heart of panda country. At Wolong, many of the giant panda enclosures were destroyed or severely damaged.  “Panda Tales” captures the Zoo team’s concern for their colleagues in China, as well as plans to aid in the breeding center’s rebuilding.

Though there is no shortage of endearing clips of Zhen Zhen as she grows, “Panda Tales” is much more than a collection of “ahh!” inspiring images. The program takes a serious look at the plight of the giant panda and how the zoo’s program has affected the resurgence of this incredible species.

          KPBS is a public service of San Diego State University, serving the region with TV, radio and Internet content that is educational as well as entertaining – and free of commercial interruption.

Production credits: “Panda Tales” was produced by KPBS, Public Television, San Diego. Narrator, Kathi Diamant; Producer/Director, Maura Daly Phinney; Music Composer, Paul Montesano; Associate Producer, Andy Trimlett; Executive Producer, Keith York.

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