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Wear a panda onesie, and help save lives. We're not joking.

© Danielle Ryan – WWF-Aus

By Dermot O’Gorman, CEO WWF-Australia

It’s a day I will never forget.

It’s 3am and pitch dark in the Shaanxi province in central China. Instead of being warm and snug in bed, I’m braving winding, bumpy roads in the Minshan Mountains. For two very long hours. Then it’s another two hours of arduous hiking on foot, up into the core reserve of pine and bamboo forests.

Into panda country.

I’m there to see something rarely seen – a panda in the wild. Researchers can spend ten years studying pandas and still not see a panda in the wild.

I figure being with one of China’s leading panda scientists will help my odds. Being in an area which has a high density of pandas in the wild will also help.

By 7am, we’re on a grassy knoll. For over an hour we sit and enjoy the beautifully still landscape high up in the mountains. And then he simply appears.

A young, male panda on his way up the mountain to escape the rising heat of the day.

We watch him – and he watches us. A gentle moment.

Words cannot describe the elation I feel. We’ve seen a panda in the wild!

It’s this snapshot in time, this beautiful memory that I draw upon over the next seven years as I work to protect our world’s endangered species and their habitat.

It motivated me as CEO in WWF China to helpestablish 1.6 million hectares of panda habitat to protect these iconic animals.

It continues to motivate me in my conservation work here in Australia to save turtles and the Great Barrier Reef.

And I’m drawing upon that panda experience right now – as I sit here working in a panda onesie.

© Danielle Ryan – WWF-Aus

Yep – You heard right. A panda onesie.

Why? Apart from the fact that they’re comfortable and warm, it’s part of WWF-Australia’s new fun national community fundraising event called Wild Onesie Week.

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During 2-6 June we want Aussies from all walks of life to wear a Onesie for a day to raise awareness and much needed funds to continue our conservation work and protect priority endangered species. These include Borneo pygmy elephants, orang-utans, sharks, tigers, turtles and of course, pandas.

And my ever-so-helpful staff suggested I walk the talk.

Behind the fun activity, the science is serious.

Here are six sobering facts:

1. Only 1,500 Pygmy Elephants remain in the wild in Borneo.

2. It’s suspected that Great Hammerhead sharks have declined by at least 80% in the past 25 years, making them critically endangered in some regions.

3. In 100 years, Tiger numbers have declined from 100,000 to as low as 3,200.

4. The only significant breeding stock of Loggerhead Turtles in the South Pacific Ocean nest is in Queensland, but since the 1970s numbers have declined from about 1,000 breeding females to just a few hundred.

5. Fewer than 63,000 Orang-utans exist in the wild.Of these, the majority are found in Borneo with a tiny population of about 6,000 surviving in Sumatra.

6. The latest surveys estimate there to be 1,600 Pandas alive in the wild.

To me, they are six reasons to wear a onesie for a day.

I couldn’t imagine a world without pandas making their way up Minshan Mountains to escape the rising heat of the day.

This is why I am wearing one to save many. And I hope you will too.

Saving wildlife has never been so much fun!

As the CEO of WWF-Australia, Dermot O’Gorman, is a long term conservationist. His passion lies in the big picture of conservation, using collaboration and partnership to protect our natural world today for tomorrow’s generations. His vast experience has led him all over the world, from China to Fiji, the UK to Switzerland.  Closer to home Dermot also likes gardening, ocean swimming, cooking and bushwalking with his wife and young son.

WWF-Australia: WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

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