Vienna panda trains for China trip

Updated 04 November 2012
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Vienna panda trains for China trip

Lured into a crate, locked in, then shaken about, Fu Hu, the young star of Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, munches on bamboo, unperturbed, as he undergoes the panda version of flight training before setting off to join his peers in China.
A key attraction ever since his sensational birth there in 2010, Fu Hu — “lucky tiger” in Mandarin — is now two years old, and must return to China under the zoo’s contract with Beijing.  
But in the wild, this is also the age when a cub bids farewell to its parents.  
“He has already learnt everything he needs to know from his mother. Now he can learn much more from bears of the same age,” Renate Haider, Fu Hu’s main caretaker, told AFP.  
Schoenbrunn scored a huge success in 2007 when it became the first European zoo to see a panda born from natural conception.
Given the bears’ endangered status and short mating time, zoos usually resort to artificial insemination.  
The first natural-born panda, Fu Long, was an immediate crowd pleaser but, under the same contractual obligation, had to leave the baroque surroundings of the Vienna zoo at the age of two.
Within 12 months came the next sensation when Fu Hu saw the light of day on August 23, 2010, right on his brother’s birthday.
“They’re so adorable, totally fluffy. You’d really just like to cuddle up to him,” said teenager Lara Mechler from Muenster, Germany, gazing happily at Fu Hu and his mother on a recent visit.
The zoo is proud of its conservation success, which it puts down to good infrastructure and training that helps keep the pandas physically and mentally fit.
Schoenbrunn also conducts research in collaboration with its Chinese partners, such as pandas’ ability to recognize each other from the black patches around their eyes or the sounds that cubs make.
The panda — which appears on the logo of the WWF — “is the symbol for wildlife conservation after all,” said zoo director Dagmar Schratter.  
“Especially with such endangered animals, our ambition and our duty is to try and encourage our animals to mate.”
Taking care of two adult pandas and a cub is no mean feat.  
Each bear eats between 20 and 30 kilograms (44-66 pounds) per day of bamboo, requiring a delivery of about one ton every other week — flown in from southern France as the requisite amounts are not available in Austria.
Schoenbrunn also insists that its pandas should remain wild and keeps interactions with its caretakers to a minimum.  
“Pandas are certainly the most jovial, calmest bears as they are not hunters, but they are still bears,” said Haider.  
“We can go in and see the little one as he’s just 50 kilograms and not as dangerous, but the adults are 100 kilograms... even if they just wanted to play, something could go wrong.”
As Fu Hu prepares to leave for China on Nov. 6, visitors are already mourning his departure.
“It’s sad, of course, because he is part of Schoenbrunn Zoo. His presence made more and more people come here and visit,” said retiree Monika Braun, who holds an annual zoo pass and comes to see the animals regularly.
A team from Vienna will accompany Fu Hu to the Bifengxia panda reserve in China’s Sichuan province to help ease him into his new surroundings.
In the meantime, a travel crate has been installed in his enclosure and Haider regularly draws him inside with treats while colleagues rock the crate to simulate potential in-flight turbulence.  
“We’ve been practising the whole procedure so he knows it all and the loading will be as stress-free as possible,” said Haider.
The 10-year loan of Fu Hu’s parents Yang Yang and Long Hui, meanwhile, expires in March but the zoo is already in talks to extend the contract for another decade and remains optimistic.
Now the question is whether Schoenbrunn will see a third cub next summer.  
“In the spring it is mating time again and the adults get along very well so I think nothing should get in the way,” said Haider. “Let’s see what happens!”  


In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits ‘Schindler’s List’

Updated 27 April 2018
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In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits ‘Schindler’s List’

  • It was the first time Steven Spielberg had watched “Schindler’s List” with an audience since it was released in 1993
  • Spielberg initially shied away from “Schindler’s List,” scripted by Steven Zaillian and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s Arkansas”

NEW YORK: Steven Spielberg says no film has affected him the way “Schindler’s List” did.
Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and others reunited for a 25th anniversary screening of “Schindler’s List” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, in an evening that had obvious meaning to Spielberg and the hushed, awed crowd that packed New York’s Beacon Theater. In a Q&A following the film, Spielberg said it was the first time he had watched “Schindler’s List” with an audience since it was released in 1993.
“I have never felt since ‘Schindler’s List’ the kind of pride and satisfaction and sense of real, meaningful accomplishment — I haven’t felt that in any film post-’Schindler’s List,’” Spielberg said.
The reunion was a chance for Spielberg and the cast to reflect on the singular experience of making an acknowledged masterwork that time has done little to dull the horror of, nor its necessity. “It feels like five years ago,” Spielberg said of making the film.
Spielberg shot the film in Krakow, Poland, in black-and-white and without storyboards, instead often using hand-held cameras to create a more documentary-like realism. Neeson remembered Spielberg running with a camera and, on the fly, directing him and Kingsley down Krakow streets. “It was exciting. It was dangerous and unforgettable,” Neeson said.
“Schindler’s List,” made for just $22 million (Spielberg declined a pay check), grossed $321 million worldwide and won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. It also did much to educate the American public on the Holocaust. After the film, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation, which took the testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivors.
More needs to be done for Holocaust education, Spielberg said: “It’s not a pre-requisite to graduate high school, as it should be. It should be part of the social science, social studies curriculum in every public high school in this country.”
Making “Schindler’s List” was a profound, emotional and fraught experience for many of those involved. Kingsley recalled confronting a man for anti-Semitism during production. Spielberg said swastikas were sometimes painted overnight. Recreating scenes like those in the Krakow ghetto and at Auschwitz were, Spielberg said, very difficult for most of those involved. Two young Israeli actors, he said, had breakdowns after shooting a shower scene at the concentration camp.
“That aesthetic distance we always talk about between audience and experience? That was gone. And that was trauma,” said Spielberg. “There was trauma everywhere. And we captured the trauma. You can’t fake that. (The scene) where everyone takes off their clothes was probably the most traumatic day of my entire career — having to see what it meant to strip down to nothing and then completely imagine this could be your last day on earth.
“There were whole sections that go beyond anything I’ve ever experienced or seen people in front of the camera experience,” the 71-year-old filmmaker added.
Spielberg actually released two movies in 1993. “Jurassic Park” came out in June, and “Schindler’s List” followed in November. While he was shooting in Poland, Spielberg made several weekly satellite phone calls with the special effects house Industrial Light & Magic to go over Tyrannosaurus Rex shots — a distraction he abhorred.
“It built a tremendous amount of anger and resentment that I had to do this, that I actually had to go from what you experienced to dinosaurs chasing jeeps,” Spielberg told the audience. “I was very grateful later in June, though. But until then, it was a burden. This was all I cared about.”
“Schindler’s List” was a redefining film for Spielberg, who up until then was mostly considered an “entertainer,” associated with fantasy and escapism. Since, he has largely gravitated toward more dramatic and historical material like “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Munich,” “Lincoln” and last year’s “The Post.”
But Spielberg initially shied away from “Schindler’s List,” scripted by Steven Zaillian and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s Arkansas”. He urged Roman Polanski, whose mother was killed at Auschwitz, to make it. Martin Scorsese was once attached to direct.
Yet the making of “Schindler’s List” prompted an awakening for Spielberg, who has said his “Jewish life came pouring back into my heart.” On Thursday, the director said he wanted to make the film about “the banality of the deepest evil” and “stay on the march to murder, itself.”
To keep his sanity while shooting in Poland, he watched “Saturday Night Live” on Betamax and relied on weekly calls from Robin Williams.
“He would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” said Spielberg. “I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much. But the way Robin is on the telephone, he would always hang up on you on the loudest, best laugh you’d give him.”