Panda are native to China, and during our recent visit to Chengdu, we were lucky enough to visit the Panda Research Center.
I was very impressed with the Research Center. The grounds are landscaped with bamboo and other native plants, making the entire place seem like a wilderness area.
Once they reach adulthood, pandas are solitary creatures. The only time pandas come together is to mate, and the window of opportunity is a very small one. Along with the diminishing habitat, this is one of the reasons pandas are in danger of extinction.
An adult panda
The Research Center is having great success with breeding, although it hasn’t been easy. They found that the pandas raised at the center didn’t know how to mate. They solved this problem by showing the pandas blue movies—a movie of pandas mating in the wild. This ingenious solution has produced a bumper “crop” of babies this year, and we saw many of them in the nursery.
Babies in the Nursery
Keepers feed the pandas early in the morning before temperatures rise. Their natural habitat is at a high altitude, and they dislike the muggy temperatures in Chengdu. We arrived at the center around nine, just after feeding time. During the late morning the pandas return to their quarters, which are air conditioned, and spend the hottest part of the day sleeping.
Teddy Bear’s Picnic
We saw adults, groups of juveniles and the nursery where there were babies of various ages. We also saw red pandas, which are not as rare but share the same habitat as pandas. They’re smaller and are able to climb higher where they eat different parts of the bamboo to the giant panda.
One of the highlights of my visit was a close encounter with a young panda. I had to pay extra, but it was worth every penny. The money goes to the Research Center and helps further research and pay for the upkeep of the pandas.
I had to “gown up” with plastic booties, gloves and a coverall to help keep contamination at bay. The keeper plonked the panda on my knee. He wasn’t very heavy and he had very soft fur. He sat calmly, chewing on bamboo while helpers took many photos for me. I know my grin was wide. I love animals, and it was a real privilege to hold a panda.
This was the first time I’ve ever seen pandas. They certainly have the cuteness factor going for them. My visit was a dream come true and was right up there with seeing gorillas in their natural habitat. One for my life top ten experiences.