I haven't kept up with Lin Ping for some time. She was always so entertaining. Thanks to True TV and Zoological Park Organization for putting up the money needed so that many could enjoy watching her.
Thailand’s Panda Fans Lose Their Favorite Reality TV Show
By Phisanu Phromchanya and Wilawan Watcharasakwet
BANGKOK — After nearly three years of 24/7 telecasts of the everyday lives of a giant panda family, Thais will have to leave their sofas and remote controls and pay a visit to a zoo if they want to see their beloved creatures.
True Vision, a local cable network, pulled the plug on the reality show Monday due to apparent declining interest in watching the pandas, who have been housed at a zoo in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, since 2003.
Interest in their lethargic lives – which revolve around eating bamboo shoots and sleeping – hit a fever pitch in May 2009 when artificial insemination succeeded and father Chuang Chuang and mother Lin Hui produced a cub, named Lin Ping. Six months later, True Vision dedicated a live feed from the panda enclosure in what was a new frontier in Thailand’s growing appetite for reality TV.
Many Thais tuned in initially to what was dubbed the “Panda Channel” and some never seemed to tire of watching the cub claw around, chew bamboo shoots, and doze, perchance dreaming of more shoots.
“I’m very sorry that we are losing this channel,” said Nantana Maneerat, 66, a retiree. “The Panda Channel fostered a connection between Lin Ping and me, and that made me feel like she is my youngest daughter.”
“I’m bored with news and politics,” Mrs. Nantana said. “Watching her chewing bamboo and move around is very enjoyable and makes me relaxed and comfortable.”
The network and the Zoological Park Organization, a government agency overseeing Chiang Mai Zoo, had collaborated on the show. True agreed to shoulder the broadcasting costs for the first two years, and the zoo organization bore the third year. The costs of broadcasting were around THB10 million per year.
The organization decided not to extend the contract, resulting in Monday’s termination. Ratings for the Panda Channel are not available, but executives appear to have perceived that the pandas’ popularity had fallen, said Prasertsak Buntragulpoontawee, chief of the organization’s panda research department.
Anyone who wants to see the pandas up close will need to hurry. Lin Ping and her parents are scheduled to be returned to China next year, but the zoo organization hopes to negotiate an extension on the 10-year contract. The pandas attract around 800,000 visitors a year.
Thailand has had the pandas at a steep discount of $300,000 per year, well under the $1 million it typically charged to zoos in the United States, as part of its diplomatic offensive to increase trade and political ties in Southeast Asia.
“It wouldn’t be good if Lin Ping needs to return to China,” said Charli Sandford, an 8-year-old living in Chiang Mai who kept the channel on while doing her homework. “I will miss her very much because it would be difficult for her to get back to Thailand again.”
Giant pandas have difficulty conceiving offspring and the birth and survival of cubs is rare. On Sept. 16, a week-old giant panda cub died at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.