Tourists who travel to Chengdu really go for one thing…PANDA BEARS.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding www.panda.org.cn/english (if you want to take a peak..but NOT yet…)
This day dawned rainy and cool. Yech. However, little did we realize that it was a perfect day to go to the Panda Base b/c Panda’s love cool weather.
Through Susan’s contacts we hired a car for the day. We knew the base was some distance away and this way we were guaranteed of getting there for our lecture and tour on time, and we could move on to our next destination (which we found out later was REALLY some distance away).
Our drive was 45 minutes through the city traffic. (See day 1). I sat in the way back of the van again…I did not see any carnage from the driving and scooters, but Diane did see one scooter down (I guess it has to happen!)
We got to the base @ 8:45…perfect timing and called in to tell the young lady that was giving us a lecture about the base we had arrived. We walked through the base to a conference room.
Also on the way in is a “representation” of the bears in the wild. NO, these guys are NOT real…first…there is no barrier so it would represent a flight risk and ..second…bears don’t wear clothes!
We had a lovely 45 minute talk on the history of the base and life of the Pandas. Did you know Giant Pandas have no natural enemies? I didn’t! At the base they let the Panda's breed naturally…but just in case…they also use artificial insemination. Also…Pandas are thought to be very lazy…however, the bamboo the Pandas eat has very little nutritional value, so after they eat, they preserve their energy…thus the “lazy” reputation. SO, they are actually very smart! Also…Pandas live VERY high up, and dislike heat tremendously. Since Chengdu can get very hot, coming to the base in the summer can lead to few Bears since they are kept inside…SO…our cool wet day was really a blessing…The bears would be out and maybe even active!
After the talk we had another tour guide to walk us personally through the base…this proved VERY helpful later in the day.
The habitats are broken up by the ages. The first Panda we saw was a male. He was very snoozy…so we did not stay with him long.
We went from enclosure to enclosure seeing cuter and cuter sights.
Same bear…close up and further away so I could get Diane and Susan in the picture!
It was pretty crowded (though I am sure not nearly as bad as it could have been) so jockeying for position was a real necessity. This guy kept moving so being on the fringe of the crowd I just kept moving with him. It was great to get some clear shots.
Off we went to see some even younger bears!
This guy just loved hanging in his tree…he never moved. The other two reminded me of true siblings! The one on the bottom wanted to be in the space where the other one was. It was amusing to watch the positioning and climbing!
Can you count the bears in this pic??
We were standing in line to see the nursery when our guide went ahead to see the line for holding the pandas…she ran back to say “come quickly” There was a bear out, but they would be putting her away soon, and we would have to wait a long time. This was a larger bear, so no “holding” was allowed (you will see why)
We had to put on booties and gloves. The caretakers snap pics with your personal camera while you are with the bear..but we all did “back up” pics (thankfully)
This was our bear:
First up was Susan!
Then it was my turn:
We were like Pandarazzi taking pictures!!
Their fur is very coarse…which it would have to be to protect them from cold and wet. Luckily they are slow moving so you don’t have the issues of her head twisting…she pretty much always gave us a good shot (until the end…)
OK…THAT was too cool for words! It did take a pretty significant donation to do this…but hey…the money goes to a good cause AND…You get to be w/in 6 inches of a Panda!! Completely worth it to me!
Then…back in line to the nursery: Where AWWWWWWW too cute for words!
The babies get lots of attention. They do get to be with their moms…but they are closely monitored for health. After a few months this type of interaction can not happen. The Base had TWELVE babies born this year! Very successful year! There is also almost no deaths amongst those born here.
These Pandas are not released to the wild…yet. They will be sent to zoos and research facilities throughout the world. China is very protective of their Bears.
We had a little bit more to see…
There are RED Pandas! They look a lot like raccoons to me (I am stalked by raccoons) These guys have VERY fun tails…like bristle brushes!
Really quick..take a look at the amount of rice you get when you order lunch! Again lunch was very nice and of excellent quality for a “zoo”
We did make one more stop after the Base…but that can wait for another day!