Abe Nobuko: A Japanese Giant Panda Keeper’s Dream Life

Authors: Hello Chengdu

2020-08-01

Abe Nobuko, a Japanese girl, works in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding as a giant panda keeper.
Her ties with giant pandas can trace back to the day she received her first panda toy at the age of three. Since then, it has been her wish to have a "pandaful life" - a wish that has come true.
The Happiest Job in the World
Entering the gates of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and walking through a maze of bamboo thickets, one comes upon the Sunshine Nursey House for Giant Pandas. It is drizzling outside, yet visitors still queue up for a chance to watch the panda babies from outside a glass enclosure. Though each of the visitors will only have a few seconds to gaze upon them, they cannot help exclaim their observations about the pandas in this short time. "Look, their eyes are open!" Visitors then have to move on with the group. Inside the glass enclosure, Abe Nobuko is cleaning, rinsing and transporting panda droppings, which are her routine job. The visitors, however, may not understand that Abe Nobuko, with her serious facial expression, is busy doing her job while smitten by how cute her little wards are. Abe has been working close to pandas for over 10 years.
Abe developed a connection with pandas when she was three years old. Her grandma gave her a panda toy as small as a child's hand. She loved this toy so much that she took it wherever she went. When she was 11, Abe and her friends went to Tokyo for a study tour and had her first chance to see a real panda: "What I was most excited for was to visit the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, and I didn't care about the Disney Land," she recalled in an excited tone. "At the zoo, I saw a panda sleeping. I was so moved when I saw its white and back color."
After graduating from senior high school, Abe started to plan to get the "happiest job in the world" in the eyes of panda fans. She first studied Chinese for her bachelor's degree in Japan, and then went to Sichuan Agricultural University to study Wild Animal Research and Conservation. During this time, she had internship experiences in Wolong, a natural habitat of pandas, and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. After that, she went to Tokyo and worked at Ueno Zoo as a keeper for six years. In 2017, Abe returned to Chengdu with a clearer direction for her career. "I wanted to do more to return pandas to their wild habitats. China pays attention to this aspect and has its own program, so I came back," says Abe.
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