Giant Panda Breeding Center and Research Base Tours – Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Giant Panda Breeding Center and Research Base
About this place
Chinese zoos are often equated to animal prisons by Western visitors. Fortunately Chengdu’s Giant Panda Breeding Center strays far from the norm. The research base is truly groundbreaking for country that pushes aside most environmental and ecological concerns due to its overpopulation issues. The base has a research lab, museum, panda kindergarten, and adult panda grounds. In total the base has 45 pandas. The children stay in the panda kindergarten area until they are three years old. Then they can hold their own in the adult grounds.
Right now there is only one baby panda under one year old. She is named Jing Jing in honor of the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As of March 2006 she is six months old and already 24 kilograms. Watching her climb about her wooden jungle gym and her caretaker can make even the most dignified man crack a smile. This adorable creature is the closest thing this earth has to an ewok. For the absurd price of Y800 you can even take a picture with Jing Jing in your lap
Jing Jing at play with her caretaker (photo by Jamey Doole)
Arrive early to catch the pandas roll out of bed and begin their two hour breakfast. Pandas only absorb about 20% of the fibers they ingest, so they spend much of their waking hours chomping away on bamboo. In the wild, a panda’s diet is more than 95% bamboo. After waking up, taking a short stroll, and scratching their backs for a bit, it is time for breakfast. The staff generally leaves large piles of bamboo close to visitor paths, so entrants can be duly entertained. The panda nestles into a comfortable spot next to a large pile of bamboo and lays on his or her back. By the time they are finished, they will be covered in a pile of their own bamboo remains. Watching the pandas snack incessantly is somewhat mesmerizing.
The base also has red pandas. However, one gets the feeling that red pandas are the giant panda’s red-headed step-sister. Visitors to this section are few and the price of a picture is only Y50. The red pandas may remind Westerners of raccoons or big cats. They do have beautiful fur and are quite elegant creatures.
Entrance to the base is Y30. A small movie theater with a free 18 minute film about breeding pandas is worth seeing. The footage of mother pandas giving birth is fascinating.
Directions: The base is about 10 kilometers outside of town. Reaching the base by bus is not very efficient. Take bus no. 10 to its terminus. At this bus station change to bus no. 1. It is much easier to take a taxi which should only cost about Y30 from the center of town. On the way back, just flag down bus no. 1. Bus no. 1 will take you to a bus station where you can either walk about 30-40 mins to reach downtown Chengdu or take another bus.
Apparently double-fisting isn’t just for drunks (Photo by Jamey Doole)
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