When we were planning our trip to China and examining the options, there was one that jumped out at Karen, volunteering with the Pandas. At the Dujiangyan Base for research into Giant Pandas they have a program where you get to do some work near the Pandas. To be clear, you no longer get to touch the Pandas, however you do get to feed them which is pretty darn cute. A warning now. This is a very photo heavy blog post. The darn animals are just too cute.
For the safety of everyone the feeding is done through the bars. It is interesting how animals become conditioned to routines. The little slab that sticks out from the bars is for the panda to rest its arm on. It knows if it puts its arm there it will receive treats. That is how they get blood samples from the bears when they are doing their health checkups. It is also an easy way to do a quick check of their dental situation.
We fed them a carrot and a piece of what they call Panda Cake. A mixture of ingredients to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.
There are about twenty Pandas at this location. Including four young ones between 1 and 2 years old.
Pandas are solitary animals and each one had its own enclosure. Except the young ones who were still with their mother. The whole complex is beautifully situated and well laid out.
It was not all fun and games though. We got to shovel up poop in the cages and enclosures, depositing it into bins so it could be weighed.
In addition to the poop, we had to clean up the left overs from feeding time. Which is all day by the way. The Pandas eat about 14kg of bamboo a day.
We also got to prepare the bamboo for eating. This involved smacking it on the ground and having it break open. Very therapeutic I must say.
As with the rest of China we have seen, we had to tidy up after ourselves and leave our work area neat and tidy.
Because bamboo does not have a lot of nutritional value, the bears need to eat a lot of it. Though we crack it open for them, watching the way they work their way through it is amazing. And the way they easily snap it into pieces is a clue to just how strong these gentle looking giants are.
Now with all this work I am aware you are starting to feel sorry for us and wonder if we saw much of the Pandas. Don’t worry, the day included plenty of free time to wander around and take in the antics of these beautiful creatures.
The variety of poses they used to eat was hilarious.
Mom having some time away from the children.
This Panda, Dai Li, was rescued from the wild with a badly injured rear left leg. It had to be amputated, however he has adapted and is doing quite well in captivity. He was one of the ones we fed, and he was oh so gentle. Just a beautiful animal.
It is very easy at times to attribute human behaviour or thinking to the actions of these Bears. However the fact remains that they are wild animals. It is sad at times to see them in enclosures, but whenever bears that have been exposed to humans have been released into the wild they have sadly died. They do have a release program in China and have set aside thousands of hectares of wilderness for them to live. Time will tell if the program is a success.
But before we get too serious. Let us just enjoy the antics of the young ones.
When not eating or playing, the young pandas sleep for about 12 hours a day. Apparently digesting bamboo is hard work.
The brother and sister in this enclosure were very entertaining to watch. The male here was particularly busy. Trying to climb over the balls here.
And promptly falling off backward.
At times I got the feeling this fellow was getting more entertainment watching the humans than the other way around.
Very satisfied with our day with the pandas. And no, they wouldn’t let me go into the enclosures with the hat on.
Truly a dream come true.
We had a fantastic day with the pandas. As volunteers they even fed us, which was interesting, eating with the other workers there. If you are ever in Chengdu and are interested in pandas I would highly recommend the program.
Enjoy a short video of their antics.
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What a wonderful day you had. These pandas are so cute. Such a trip is in my plan.
HI guys, it was lovely to meet you on this special Panda day. On clearing out my purse I found your business card and voila found your website. This Panda base was also the highlight of our trip 🙂 and what fun we all had eh! We treasure all the photos and it was lovely seeing your photos too, hope you are both keeping well and will keep track of your blog and when the world is a little more travel friendly do come and see us in The Emirates in Ras al Khaimah xx