by Sun Hao
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) - It's not too hard to find panda fans across the world. But even the person who speaks up for pandas are surprised to see some really "huge fans."
Melissa Katz, a 25-year-old girl born and raised in the U.S. state of New Jersey, is one of the three panda ambassadors, or Pambassadors who were chosen from 1.16 million applicants last year. Over two weeks after she and her fellow ambassadors kicked off a global public education tour, she is happy to return to Washington D.C., one of the six main stops of their global tour and one of the four U.S. cities that now house pandas on loan from China.
The reason for leaving the city she calls "second hometown" is nothing else but her love for pandas.
"I have loved giant pandas for my entire life, since I can remember," said Katz. After she learned the giant pandas are the most endangered animal species, she had a dream to go to China and help save them.
Her room in her New Jersey home has been decorated with a panda-theme. She used to read books about pandas and now uses a panda iPhone case. But what she can do for pandas is much bigger now.
As a Pambassador, she had three-month intensive training at the Chengdu panda base and learned to be a keeper for pandas.
On a global tour, they will travel to cities across the world that currently house pandas for protection and conservation of giant pandas and other endangered species in the world. Highlighted stops include Hong Kong, Singapore, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Edinburgh and Paris.
Before the role of panda ambassador, she was the field hockey coach at American University in Washington D.C.. She used to live just two miles away from the National Zoo and often walked to visit the pair of pandas.
She had to make "a hard decision she has ever made" last year to quit the coaching job that she "truly loves" and to leave Washington D.C. where she had lived for a year and a half.
Katz said she did not regret for her decision and was pleased to know her parents and friends supported her dream with pandas. "Because of me, many people have learned more about pandas," she said, including her family.
Still, Katz knows there are some "huge panda fans" that have been even more crazy about pandas than she does. Some may follow closely to panda cams on zoos' websites or YouTube, and some may search everything about pandas online.
When Katz conducted a question and answer session on National mall on Saturday noon, Erik Cox and his wife Rachel came to join the event after they learned it from Facebook.
"I always love pandas," said Rachel. Knowing this fact for sure, Erik invited pandas as "messengers" for him to propose for his be-loved nine years ago.
He used four panda toys, one bigger than another, to show her clues and finally led her to him. And of course the most creative proposal dedicated to a huge panda fan ended with a "yes" that day and a wedding ceremony a year later.
The Coxes just celebrated their eighth anniversary of happy marriage which started from a panda-them proposal. They plans to go to Chengdu panda base next week.
Why people love pandas? Katz said she did not have an answer for all. It may because pandas have large face, or their appealing black-and-white color or just being so cute.
Why should people protect pandas? Katz acknowledged that there are some people who think pandas or other endangered species do not deserve to be protected with so much efforts.
"They can argue that pandas are only in heat for once a year, they can' t take care of more than one cub at a time, they are not so interested in mating, so maybe they should extinct. But remember this, for 8 million years, pandas have survived. They only became endangered since industrialization," said Katz.
She stressed that in the past 100 years, people have witnessed " dramatic loss of biodiversity with all the animals in the world."
In order to protect the endangered species, normal people can do a lot to make a difference, said Katz. "If all the people do the small changes, there would be a big difference."
Those "small difference" that may result in "a dominant effect" could include not using plastic bags, working paperless, buying organic food and so many other creative ideas to protect the environment, as Katz suggested.