Located in western China, surrounded by a lush valley of more than 300 acres, is the Dujiangyan Panda Valley.
Dujiangyan Panda Valley
The goal of the center is to increase the panda population all-the-while promoting environmental conservation, which is crucial to their survival.During my visit to Panda Valley, I spent the day volunteering with the keepers, learning how to feed and care for these animals. 🙂Adorable zookeeper transport! ❤I volunteered with a mother-daughter pair from Mexico City, a lawyer from London, and a researcher from Paris, who was spending a month at the center to study panda behavior.We began the day by cleaning out their enclosures.The pandas were incredibly inquisitive, and even interacted with us as we cleaned. They also relentlessly vocalized and grabbed at the bars until we gave them fresh bamboo. 😛
At least they’re easy to please. 😀After, we prepared more bamboo stalks for the pandas, since they can eat up to 30 pounds of it each day.
Once the panda enclosures were cleaned, we went into their cage to sweep out their poo, which, not so surprisingly, looks just like bamboo, since it makes up 99% of their diet. 😛Fun fact: pandas were originally meat-eaters, and still retain carnivorous teeth, but with evolution, have converted to a strictly herbivorousdiet, even in the wild.
Other than bamboo, the keepers also feed them carrots, bamboo shoots, and panda bread.
We even got a chance to feed the bears a bit of each. 🙂
In the video, I learned how thousands of pandas used to roam freely in these mountains, but due to deforestation, they became critically endangered, and no more than 2,000 remain today.I also learned how their conservation effort is one of the most respected in the world, and how Director Zhang Zhihe was the man responsible for their successful breeding in captivity.
Fun fact: Pandas have two cubs at a time, but can only nurture one, since their diet is so nutrient-poor. Because of this, the center cares for one cub, while the mother cares for one, then exchanges them every two days to ensure both cubs survive, and also receive important colostrum from the mother’s milk.Overall, the goal of the center is to raise wild pandas that can be released back into their natural habitat.
Fun fact: to raise wild pandas in captivity, free from human contact, keepers clean enclosures wearing panda suits covered in animal urine, since pandas are more reliant on scent than sight.In the meantime, these pandas in captivity are treated well, living in a stunning natural enclosure that would put any zoo to shame. 😀
The adults pandas here are housed separately to avoid potential aggression, while the sub-adults, under two years of age, are housed together.The sub-adults were quite fun to watch, as they bonded and played with one another.Fun fact: the Dujiangyan Panda Base has the oldest panda in the world, at 30 years of age.As well, they house and care for Tai Shan, a famous panda born in Washington D.C.
As a highlight of my day, I was also able to spend some one-on-one time with Bin Jin, a 1.5 year old panda who was the most adorable ball of fur I’d ever seen. 😀The keepers tried to distract him with bamboo, but he was very affectionate, and more interested in what I was doing next to him. 😛
Lastly, we got a certificate for our donation to the center, which helps to fund research, as well as, the costs of maintaining the facility and caring for the pandas. Overall, an absolutely incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will surely never forget. 😀
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
After watching the sub-adults, we checked out the adult enclosures. They seemed quite relaxed, which, in captivity, is such a joy to see. 🙂Panda selfie! 😛Even better, the center has a decent population of native red pandas.Red pandas have fluffy ring tails like raccoon, a diet similar to giant pandas, and clean themselves like cats, but ironically, are in a genus all their own. 🙂Like giant pandas, red pandas are also an endangered species and, in my opinion, an absolutely adorable tree-dwelling mammal. Love! ❤At the end of our visit, we walked around Swan Lake and admired their lovely black swans.