Giant Panda Bears.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding on the outskirts of Chengdu in the Sichuan province of China is one of the best locations in the world to get exposed to the giant pandas (called giant only to distinguish them from the smaller red pandas).
More than one million visitors per year visit the research center, which replicates the natural mountainous habitat of the pandas on almost 100 acres and houses between 50 and 75 pandas at any one time. Most visitors simply visit the research center as they would a zoo, walking along its hilly and wooded walkways trying to catch a glimpse of both giant pandas and red pandas at viewing points located throughout the very well maintained facility.
Only a handful of visitors seem to be aware that, for a nominal fee, they could have gotten a lot closer to the pandas. The delectable tidbit of the day: by registering in advance as a “panda keeper for a day” you can spend a whole morning in extremely close contact with pandas! You can even, by “donating” a more substantial amount ( anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 yuan or approx. $160-330), get to hug and hold one of the younger pandas.
My blog posting of September 7th 2012 on BonVoyageurs.com details our adventures as “panda keeper for a day” when we visited the research center that day.
It was extremely educational to spend the morning with the real panda keeper, who was extremely pleased to share some of her extensive knowledge about the habits of these wonderful creatures. Getting to know each of the five pandas under our care on a first name basis, watching them closely, preparing their food and feeding them frequently was thrilling!
I encourage you to read the posting to find out more about our day as “Panda Keeper” and other interesting tidbits such as the role of “massage and stimulation” in the reproduction of pandas and the reason for the fences around the enclosures of the research center.
When you plan your next trip to China, please make sure to reserve in advance your spot as “panda keeper for a day”; it will be the experience of a lifetime. Safe travels from BonVoyageurs!
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Dunne Rudin says
Pandas are not bears. They are more closely related to the raccoon. Koalas are not bears either.
Thanks for your comment and your opinion, which as you know is at odds with science. But red pandas in particular don’t look much like bears, do they?