In 2016 we were lucky enough to visit the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu while backpacking through China. This is Chengdu’s most prominent attraction and I understand why: spending a day looking at pandas, big or small, is something that makes a lot of people happy.
Although the world has changed because of Covid and China is one of those countries you might want to skip for a while we thought we’d take you on a virtual tour and share this experience with you. Hopefully, at some point, you’ll be able to visit without any problems in real life.
Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province which is located on the west side of China, close to Nepal. It’s most famous for the giant pandas but there is a lot to do besides that. The easiest way to get there is by airplane but if you have time you could take a bus or train as well.
Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu
So let’s take a look a the origin and purpose of the Research Base first. In 1987 they started with 6 pandas and this number has increased to 146 (in 2016). The goal of the Research Base is to ensure that the panda does not become extinct.
The animals are raised in the Research Base and eventually released back into the wild. We learn that at the Research Base they don’t know a panda is pregnant until she gives birth. Not very surprising in itself, the baby panda is about 500 grams and only a few centimeters tall.
If a panda has twins, she raises only one (survival of the fittest). The other is then raised by the staff of the center with the help of a surrogate mother. When they are small, the pandas stay together, but eventually, it becomes a solo existence.
Pandas are not lazy, they’re energy-efficient
The best time to visit the Research Base is early in the morning when the pandas are fed. Once they finish their meal they sleep a lot. It’s not because pandas are lazy, but because they are energy efficient. There aren’t a lot of nutrients in the bamboo and this way they make sure to not go hungry.
But in the morning they eat, they play with their food or with each other, and they climb trees and fall down again. If you’re lucky you get to see baby pandas as well. Even though they don’t do a whole lot it’s still fun to see how they start out and what they become once they’re bigger.
The pandas have a lot of space to roam around and there is a lot of greenery in each of their habitats. Sometimes that makes it kind of hard to find them once they sleep because they’re very good at hiding. But it’s nice to see that animal welfare is important to the Research Base.
Besides the Giant panda, the Research Base has a huge section for the Red Panda as well. This is the first panda to be discovered and they were just called pandas for a long time. When the black and white panda was found, the term red panda was introduced.
The first complex for the red panda is shielded from the public with a moat and a wall, as is the case with all the other rooms. But there is also a part where you as a visitor can walk among the red pandas. Unfortunately, these animals like to rest and hide and we only see a few red pandas in that second part.
Fortunately, there are feeding platforms and once they bring the food you can admire the red pandas a little closer. Even though they look nothing like the giant pandas they’re still very cute and worth a visit as well.
The Research Base in a short recap
A great initiative
The Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu is definitely worth a visit. It’s a great initiative to increase the panda population worldwide. One of the zoos in the Netherlands got pandas from this institute so more people learn about the mission of the Research Base.
We always think animal welfare is the most important thing when visiting something like this. Fortunately, you could tell that this is important to the research base, even though the Chinese people can be quite loud and harsh towards the animals.
We had a blast and would have loved to take one home with us. If you’re ever in the neighborhood and you need a quick pick-me-up, this will make you happy for days! Did you know about this Research Base? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!
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