The Straits Times
Published on Oct 14, 2012

7 contestants from Singapore vying to become panda advocates

24 semi-finalists from Asia-Pacific, including 7 from Singapore, to be quizzed about the bear


She gives little reason to doubt her claim that she is a huge panda fan, judging by The Sunday Times' first meeting with Ms Koh Yi-Leen on Saturday.

To start with, she was wearing a T-shirt with the face of the giant bear. Then the bank operations manager, 32, opened her bag to reveal a hairband with panda ears, an iPhone with a panda plastic cover, a packet of panda candies, and a panda soft toy, nicknamed Mr Bamboox, that she takes with her everywhere she goes.

She says her love for pandas began in 2007 with a YouTube video of a baby panda sneezing that she watched "a good 30 to 50 times". Her affinity for pandas has taken her to the Chengdu Pambassador 2012 semi-finals, which end on Monday. The global competition aims to raise awareness of giant panda conservation.

Three winners chosen from 16 finalists will be sent on a five-month tour to visit pandas around the world. These panda ambassadors, or Pambassadors, will also receive US$20,000 (S$24,800).