In my previous posts, I mentioned that the reintroduction of the Milu generated a lot of enthusiasm and stimulated much needed interest in the topic of wildlife conservation in general among Chinese people.
Among the most touching happenings were the many children’s letters we started receiving at Nan Haizi following the arrival of the first herd (even before they were released from their compulsory quarantine). Children had heard the news on TV or from their parents or teachers and they started sending letters addressed to “Dear Milu”. Many also included their photos.
In her letter dated September 10, 1985, 6-year old Zhang Xiao Hong said that before the Milu returned back home she would have wished she had wings to fly to visit them in England. She shared her thoughts about the deer being so happy to return home after an absence of nearly one hundred years and was asking “Dear Milu” whether they knew why she was writing them this letter: “because today is Teacher Day, and I want to become a biology teacher when I grow up. I will tell my students to love all natural resources in China. Dear Milu, you don’t know but last year, because the bamboo failed to blossom, poor Panda did not have enough food. I felt so sad. But we will not let you leave China again. September 26 is my birthday and I am sending you 2 RMB. I hope the auntie who looks after you can get you some snacks that you like. I am going to visit you one day very soon“.
Another letter came from little Gao Hai Sha, who also said that she loved nature and mentioned that she had never seen a Milu. She was asking if “Dear Milu” looked like the Mei Hua Lu (Sika deer) and wished them a happy stay at the Milu Park.
After the release had taken place, we received many more letters asking the deer to be careful. Lv Bing, calling herself “Milu’s little sister” wrote on October 4: “Now the weather is getting colder, please be careful, don’t get cold. I started collecting pocket money when I was four years old. Now I have RMB 2.6 that I am sending you together with this letter. I hope uncles and aunties who work at the Milu Park will be able to buy you some toys and snacks. Later when I have more money, I will send it to you again.”
Lv Bing’s letter dated Oct 4th 1985
Nowadays, these amounts may look minuscule (In Beijing, a one-way underground ticket costs 2 RMB) but at that time the selling price of a nice ice cream bar was 5 cents. Therefore the sum of 2 RMB was the equivalent to 40 ice creams. Quite a feast for children!
I do not know what became of these little girls and the many other children who wrote to “Dear Milu” over the years, whether they indeed became biology teachers or eventually worked in connection with nature and animal conservation and protection. But I must say that, each time, it was very heart warming for all of us working on the reintroduction when we received their lovely letters.