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Jennie Carr, presenter of The Wireless' Silver Travel Show, meets one of her childhood heroes, John Craven.

I was thrilled to finally meet one of my childhood heroes, John Craven. Watching Newsround was part of my daily life as a child and it was great to catch up with John to find out what he has been up to more recently. His reports of panda conservation in the 1980s and the ground breaking visit to Wolong to film them is something I remember well, albeit only in black and white.

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Silver travel show: Panda ambassador John Craven

Silver travel show: Panda ambassador John Craven

Jennie Carr chats to Countryfile presenter John Craven about his new role as a safari expert and ambassador for China’s iconic star, the giant panda.

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Just last year, John was invited by the Sichuan authorities to become their Giant Panda Ambassador and he accepted with great pleasure. Interestingly, many of the Chinese ladies present when John was conferred with this honorary role rushed to have their photos taken with him!

Chinese heartthrob aside, John explained that he’ll be fulfilling his duties by spending time at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and accompanying parties of British visitors to the centre and also up into the mountains to see the pandas’ natural mountain habitat of damp, misty bamboo forest.

John told me about the joys of volunteering at Chengdu, which anyone can do and about the mucking out duties (of which he is not fond). It's a chance to get up close and personal to the pandas, should they like the look of you!

Why pandas?

I asked him what he (and the rest of the world) likes so much about pandas and his face broke into a huge grin:

‘It is because they are so appealing. It’s because the markings are wonderful. It’s because they sit up to eat, and they hold bamboo in their reticulated fingers. They’re in a way almost human…

‘It’s the babies in particular, the cubs… they are helpless. I was watching 3-month ones trying to stand up, and they slither all over the place trying to stand up for the first time. I was willing them on to their paws so see them get going.

‘They are amazing creatures, and it would be such a tragedy for all of the human population really, as well as the panda population and nature conservation in general if they were allowed to disappear.’

I have to agree 100%.

He rather more seriously pointed out that the conservation effort is still vitally important, especially if the dream of releasing pandas back into the wild is to come true. And this is where John’s role is so vital, keeping these endangered giants firmly on our wildlife agenda.

This article is brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor.

Listen to the Silver Travel Show on The Wireless on Wednesdays (6-7am) and Fridays (6-7pm).

Find out more information about trips to China to meet the Giant Pandas with John Craven.

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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