Monday, September 18, 2017
The Great Panda Rescue Chapter 3 - Fiction STEM Interactive Reader
The Great Panda Rescue - Chapter 3
After the movie and question and answer period, the class went back outside
Emma stood in front of the five open-air safari vehicles they’d be taking and held her hand up for all of us to be quiet.
“Notebooks and pencils are all you can take on our adventures. Please make sure no one has any food or drinks with them. That can be very dangerous. Animals are extremely sensitive. One whiff of a cookie and they can come charging. Also, no cell phones or cameras as they frighten the animals and again – they are wild and can come charging.”
Perry Knibbs was the smallest person in the class and he was a bit of a worrier. Claire thought he was going to grow up to be a golfer because the only thing he ever wore, rain or shine, cold or hot, were shorts and colored polo shirts. “Are you sure this is safe Emma?” he asked. “I don’t know if I trust no one has food.”
“It will be fine,” Mr. Potts said.
“We do this every day,” Emma said. “Haven’t lost anyone yet.”
“Yet,” mumbled Perry. “I hate that word.”
“I hate it when people say things like that,” Julia said. “Quit jinxing us Perry.”
“Sit between me and Veronica and you’ll be fine,” Claire said as they boarded
“Seat belt’s tight, hands and arms and every other body part for that matter – must stay in the vehicle at all time,” Emma said.
Emma was their driver and Claire felt special to be chosen especially to ride with her.
“Remember everyone,” Mr. Potts said loudly. “Two facts about each animal habitat and animal and please note which animals and how many you spot. Hint – working as a team would prove very beneficial in this situation.”
The vehicles took off in different directions. Claire and Julia’s group saw the South China Tiger, four elephants, two rhinos, a mountain gorilla and six grizzly bears. They headed to the giant panda habitat last.
Claire could hardly breath as they pulled up to the dense grove of bamboos and began an ascent up mountainous-like terrain. Emma seemed to sense her excitement and looked back and smiled.
“And now the pandas,” she seemed excited too. “Keep your eyes open; because, sometimes they are difficult to spot. They tell us to tell you that pandas can be loners unless it’s mating season. They mark their territory and stay put.”
“Eating and eating and eating,” Julia mumbled.
“That is exactly right,” Emma said as she carefully pulled off the main road into the bamboo forest. “Anyone know how big giant panda’s can get?”
Everyone in the vehicle looked at Claire.
“Five feet tall and they can weight up to 250 or 300 pounds,” Claire spoke softly.
“That’s a lot of bamboo,” Veronica added and Julia laughed along with her.
“Doesn’t it get hot here for them?” Julia asked. “I know I’m hot.”
“Told you,” Claire whispered.
Julia gave her a look.
“You’ll be glad you’re hot now,” Emma said, “we mist the forest in an effort to create a habitat as close to the mountainous regions of central China as we can.”
“Told you,” Julia ribbed her sister back.
As they bumped up the narrow road through the bamboo, the air changed and the world seemed to transform and suddenly it really felt like they were in the mountains of China.
“This is cool,” Veronica whispered to no one.
“Really cool,” Claire added – looking around to spot a giant panda or two.
“Over there,” Julia pointed.
Emma immediately stopped the vehicle and they all looked where Julia indicated and there one was a giant panda, sitting peacefully, chewing on bamboo.
Emma spoke in a whisper as her students simultaneously wrote in their notebooks and gazed at the bear in awe.
“That’s Tiko. He lives in that hollowed out tree. This is his territory. It’s about two miles and almost perfectly square. He, like the other pandas, have marked their territory with a special smell to keep other pandas away.” She turned back towards Claire and the other girls. “Are you ready for a special treat?”
Their eyes danced as they nodded yes.
“We’re going to the panda hospital to see the new twin cubs.”
Claire’s breath caught in her chest and she wanted to scream.
“Really?” Julia said.
“Really,” Emma answered.
Julia turned to her sister. “Looks like your day was just made again.”
Claire could hardly sit still on the short ride to the panda hospital – which was really a small shelter on the edge of the forest. She’d seen the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta and even went to a party when a set of twins was sent back to China, but this was different. This was close up.
The car stopped and everyone clamored to get out. Emma smiled.
“I know you’re all excited, but it’s important that we don’t scare them,” she said. “We’ll be up really close, but we can’t touch okay?”
The group nodded almost in unison. Emma wasn’t worried. She knew she’d chosen the most behaved and panda-friendly students in the class – with the help of Mr. Potts of course.
Claire and the others stared and stared at the cubs before them.
“They’re much smaller than Tiko,” Julia whispered to the group.
“Where’s their mother?” Claire asked.
“She’s getting ready to go back to China,” Emma said. “When these little guys turn three months or so, she’ll go and live on a breeding reserve – much better than ours. They’ll keep her for a while and then she’ll be released back into the wild. It is a special conservation program and this is our first contribution.”
“Like they do in Zoo Atlanta,” Julia said to her sister, but Claire was preoccupied.
“Are they healthy enough to go with their mother?” Claire asked knowing pandas stay with their mom’s for about 18 months after they are born.
“We’ll take care of them,” Emma said. “They see their mom every day and will for about another two weeks or so.”
“But that isn’t the same thing,” Claire said. “Isn’t the point to let them be as natural as they can be? Plus don’t they nurse for around eight months?”
“You sure do know a lot about pandas. Maybe you can come back this summer and do some volunteer work,” Emma said as she led the group back to the vehicle.
“That would be cool,” Claire said.
On the trip back to the bus Claire did not say a word. Summer was only six weeks away and the mommy panda would still be at the reserve. If her parents let her volunteer maybe there would be something she could do to keep the family together.
When they got back to the bus Emma pulled Claire aside. “There are some of the best scientists in the world making these decisions Claire. The cubs and their mom will be just fine. Better than fine.”
Claire nodded and smiled, but she was still unconvinced.
“I’m serious about volunteering,” Emma handed her a piece of paper. “With your parents’ permission, you can apply online. Put me as a reference. My name is here,” she pointed to her name on the letter.
“Thank you so much,” Claire said waving and smiling at Emma as she boarded the bus.
The three girls sat in the first two seats. Mr. Potts sat with Veronica in the second row while Julia and Claire sat in the first.
“Were they adorable?” Mr. Potts asked.
“It was amazing,” Julia said.
“I just wanted to cuddle them,” Veronica added excitedly, “but I could make them sick.”
“You know most pandas born in places like this used to die, but now most of them live,” Julia added.
Mr. Potts looked at Claire. “You’re being awfully quiet for someone who loves giant panda’s more than anyone I know.”
Claire smiled. “It was awesome and thank you so much for letting us be in the group that got to see the cubs. Really, it was the best.”
“And Emma asked her to volunteer at the reserve this summer,” Julia said proudly as she grabbed the letter from the front pocket of Claire’s backpack and showed it to Mr. Potts.
“That’s very exciting Claire,” he smiled, but he knew something was wrong.
“They are sending their mom back to China before the babies are 18 months old. Giant panda babies need their mom’s until they are at least that old,” Claire finally said.
“Claire, this is one of the finest reserves in the entire world. I’m sure they wouldn’t do anything to harm either the mom or the twin bears.”
“I know,” she smiled.
“What a great day,” Julia said. “But I’m hot and hungry.”
“I told you,” Claire smiled.
Julia laughed and shoulder bumped her sister.
“They’ll be okay,” Julia said. “Emma is nice. She’ll make sure of it.”
“I hope Mom and Dad let me volunteer,” Claire said.
“Somehow, I think you can convince them,” Julia said – rummaging through her bag for a snack. “May we eat on the bus?” she politely asked the driver.
Ditto, the bus driver, turned and grinned. “Of course,” she said, “eat away.”
Mr. Potts stood and turned towards the back. “If you are going to eat any snacks, please make sure to pick up all of your trash and,” he added, “now would be a great time to finish up any information left out of your notebooks. It was an exciting day and with so much to see it would have been easy to miss one or two things, so check now so you have no homework,” he sat back down.
Claire took out her notebook and began to sketch the baby pandas.
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