Wednesday 18 May Chengdu – Giant Pandas

We woke this morning to a smoggy 19° Chengdu, that rose to 27°. After a lovely breakfast on the 15th floor, we boarded our bus at 7.30am for a 40 minute drive through the city to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The Panda Base was established in 1987 as a non-profit organization in wildlife research, captive breeding and conservation education.

We learnt about the breeding program that has been set up to protect this lovable icon. It’s been estimated that there are only about 1,500 Giant Panda left in the world today, with around 80% of those in the Sichuan Province. The Giant Panda is one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, which is why it is used as the symbol of the WWF since its formation.

A little smaller than an American black bear, a wild giant panda typically stands about 75 centimeters tall and 1.5 metres long. A wild panda typically weighs about 75-80 kg, with the largest recorded 110 kg and males are about 20kg larger than females. Giant Pandas in captivity are bigger, and can weigh up to 150kg and they can live up to 30 years of age, while the Pandas in the wild only live to about 18–20 years.

A new-born baby panda weighs only about 100g. and approximately 50% of female Pandas give birth to twins. Males and females only meet during the breeding season in Spring and the babies are born in July or August. Giant Pandas live a solitary life and spend most of their time eating, resting or looking for food. Giant Pandas live in large bamboo forests on humid and relatively high mountain slopes and they eat tender stems, shoots and leaves of bamboo. They need to eat about 20 to 30kg of bamboo a day, which is about 40% of their own weight.

We were very impressed with the layout of the area and how well-kept it was, with pathways and beautiful gardens, as well as waterfalls everywhere. We passed a landmark with a golden statue called “Mother and Baby” and made our way to the first area that had 6 Giant Pandas that were almost 2 years old and were in “Middle School”.. Their keeper is teaching them how to get their own food and they will stay together until they are 4 years old although the males may be separated at 2 or 3 years of age. We were also impressed that the Pandas are all in settings that are as close to the wilderness as possible Other than bamboo, which is trucked from about 50 km away from a bamboo forest, the Pandas are given special treats like Panda Cake and Fruit. We loved watching the Pandas – one of them was fast asleep up a tree, while some others were spread out on their backs and rolling over onto their sides or stomachs, eating bamboo and resting after their breakfast.

From there we went to the Moonlight Nursery House where we watched some baby Pandas that were only 10 months old as well as two twin males who were only 7 months old. Two of them were having fun chasing each other around, through some water and then up a tree – one of them was trying to pull the other one out of the tree and eventually succeeded, with gasps from all of us watching them, although it wasn’t very high up and he didn’t hurt himself at all. While all this was going on, one of the Pandas was fast asleep against the fence and didn’t move the whole time we were there. We watched the Pandas for ages, enjoying their antics. We saw lots more Pandas, including a 14 year old male – we were told that the Pandas usually eat early in the morning, have a big drink of water and then sleep for hours.

As we continued our walk through the shaded forest area, we had “music by the birds”, which was very tranquil. Next, we visited the Red Panda Nursery Facility – an adult Red Panda weighs about 8kg, is 60cm in height and has 9 dark circles on their tails.

The Red Panda eats the leaves and soft part of the bamboo. There are 50 Red Pandas living here and we saw some of the 2 year olds having a special treat of pumpkin, carrot and apple. One of the Red Pandas finished eating the soft inner part of the pumpkin pieces in his area, so he came through a hole in the fence, walked along the path right beside us, brushing against Sandy’s leg on the way past, through a hole in the fence to the next area and settled himself to eat the soft middle part of the pumpkin that the others hadn’t eaten yet.

We asked about having our photo taken with a Giant Panda but were told that they don’t allow that anymore because 2 years ago, some Pandas became sick after being in contact with humans, so we were quite excited when the little Red Panda ran past us, but not quick enough to get too many photos.

We absolutely loved our visit to the Panda Research Base – we got to be reasonably close to the Pandas, learnt lots about them and got lots of photos!

We boarded our coach and were driven back into the city to The Old House TV Tower Restaurant for a lovely Chinese lunch and then back to our hotel for free time for the rest of the afternoon. On our way back to the hotel, we passed the Chengdu Diving Pool and our local guide told us that the children start having diving lessons at age 3.

We went for another walk this afternoon and found our way to the building that we can see from our room that has a Giant Panda on the side of it. The building is a large brand-name shopping complex with a roof-top garden. The Giant Panda art installation is called “I Am Here” and is a symbol of Sichuan, China by artist Lawrence Argent – it is 15 metres and 13 tonnes. We wandered around the outdoor space and took some photos before returning to our room to get ready for our buffet dinner at the hotel with the rest of our group.

We had pre-dinner drinks out in the rooftop garden bar on level 15, followed by a lovely buffet dinner with Anna and Chris and the others. Good food, much laughter, more stories – a lovely night!! We have only had a very short stay here in Chengdu, but we have really enjoyed it!!

2 Responses to “Wednesday 18 May Chengdu – Giant Pandas”

  1. Maria Hughes says:

    Loved the Pandas….think the black and white are my favourite 🙂 xoxo

  2. sandy says:

    Hi Sis, We could have stayed there all day just watching their antics – they were so cute!! 🙂 xoxo

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