Do you think one giant Panda is cute? I believe you do. Now, what about a big group of them?
Now, you can’t deny that it is incredibly therapeutic to watch animals just enjoying the time of their lives, and this is my way of just relaxing and temporarily letting go of the stressful daily routine. That’s why I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the Giant Panda Research Base while I was in Chengdu because this is one of the rare places on earth where people are able to see them in action – in a large group. Here, follow me, and let’s learn a little bit about this fascinating and unique creature, take some time off your busy schedule, and rejuvenate by their explosion of adorableness.
What do we know about the Giant Panda?
The giant Panda is an indigenous species from China, mainly inhabiting the Sichuan province, the western part of China. Their distinctive looks and gentle behavior have always won over the zoo viewers’ hearts, and the panda is also served as a national symbol and the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China. it’s true, that a pair of Giant Panda was frequently presented as a gift (or as a “loan”) to countries as a friendly and diplomatic gesture.
A Panda’s life
Giant pandas are distinctively characterized by their black-and-white pattern, which surprisingly, intend to help them camouflage themselves in the mountains and jungles in the Sichuan province along the Yangtse River. The white color on its face, neck, belly, and rump helps them hide during snowy times; and the black color of its arms and legs helps them hide in the shades. They had lived on earth for more than 3 million years, and they spend up to 10 to 16 hours a day eating 12 kilograms of bamboo every day.
A giant panda grows to 1.2 and 1.5 meters in height, with about 75 to 135 kilograms in weight. A female panda ovulates only once a year, and the window lasts merely 2-3 days, that’s why reproducing and growing their population is a tough challenge, and why a breeding program is so important. Panda’s pregnancy lasts three to five months, and they give birth to one or two cubs every two years. The life expectancy of a giant panda in the wild is unknown, but in captivity, they have an average life span of 30 years.
Where to see Panda
While the panda is an endangered species (with only about 1,600 to 1,800 remains in the world), due to their behavior, deforestation, and farming, it’s hard to expect to see them in the wild. There are currently less than 20 zoos across the world featuring the Giant Panda (outside of China), including Singapore’s River Safari, Thailand’s Chiang Mai Zoo, Japan’s Adventure World and Oji Zoo, Australia’s Adelaide Zoo, Taipei Zoo, Washington’s National Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo, Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Madrid Zoo and Aquarium, Vienna’s Tiergarten Schönbrunn, and France’s ZooParc de Beauval. They can, of course, also be viewed in Hong Kong, Macau, and some zoos in China. All in all, the majority of pandas are located here in the Sichuan province, China.
Panda’s fun facts
There are about 1,600 to 1,800 pandas living in their native habitat in Sichuan (shaanxi and Gansu); and 500 of them are in captivity within zoos and breeding centers across the world.
- Panda is a type of bear, but their eyes are different. They have vertical slits for pupils.
- As you see most pandas are just rolling on the ground being adorable, they learn how to climb when they are just 5 months old.
- While bamboo is their main food (99%), pandas, on rare occasions, eat other food like eggs, carrion, pumpkins, kidney beans, wheat, or even small animals.
Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base
The population of giant pandas suffered from deforestation and farming, and it’s our mission to protect them and help them rebuild their community back on track. A lot of efforts have been paid to preserve and protect the continuation of such unique and precious animals. Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, and the largest city in western China is the center of the conservation and breeding of Giant pandas. Visitors can also view giant pandas by visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
The research base is approximately 15-20 minutes away from Chengdu’s city center; and it is a clean, tranquil green space with research facilities and tourist sites connected among bamboo trails. The entire area has a different exhibition about various aspects of the giant pandas and of course, it has various enclosures for the pandas to manifest their cuteness.
It is just an explosion of adorableness. Walking between the bamboo walls, we can see the giant pandas in different shapes and sizes, and this is precisely the highlight of the base. The enclosures are categorized by age and size. Personally, I love the young ones (2-3 years old) the most because they are energetic, they are curious, and they like to show off to the eager zoo viewers. Their cutest moment would probably be when they are sitting on their giant bottom and chewing bamboo leaves. What’s funny is, the panda is freakishly adorable, but they can maul you if you cross them. (Just like me). 😛
Since the Chinese government ultimately controls the exportation of the giant panda, there is usually just a pair of pandas that can be seen in the zoo in any other location. Here at the base, visitors could not only see a couple, but a group of them hanging around and interacting with each other within the enclosure. Not only that, but visitors can also see pandas at different stages of their lives – the baby ones, the young ones, and also the grown ones.
Ticketing: RMB 40
How did I get there: The easiest and safest way is to take a taxi, request them to go on the meter – and usually it’s between RMB 50-70 to get around the city center
What’s more about Sichuan? As the heart of western China – a few keywords also popped into my mind. Check out some of the following while you are in Chengdu.
Yes, yes, yes – The bold, pungent, tongue-numbing spicy Sichuan food is now everywhere in the world, and Chengdu is the city of Sichuan gastronomy. While foreigners have heard a lot about Kung Pao Chicken, Sichuan food has a lot to offer – the most well-known, Mopo Tofu and Sichuan hotpot. The use of Sichuan pepper is crucial while the right mix of soup base gives you the tingly numbing, full-body sweating experience without the “Burnie-heinie” experience the day after. I was first between angels and demons eating the hot pot in Sichuan, just because I have had evil experiences in other cities. “Surprisingly,” it tasted superb, and I reckon the origin of the cuisine has mastered the art of mixing the ingredients, rather than just an oil and chili stew.
The History of the Three Kingdoms
The stories of the Three Kingdoms era are some of the most fascinating in the course of Chinese history. “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” written by Luo Guanzhong, is an important Chinese classical literature that includes legends, myths, and antidotes of this period. Chengdu has been the capital of the kingdom Shu – and Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu have been the symbol of friendship and brotherhood, Zhuge Liang was an icon of loyalty and wisdom in sophisticated military strategies. Visit the Wuhou district and revisit the history – if not, the classical Chinese architecture and garden. The Wuhou Temple is an area of monasteries, monuments, mausoleums, and gardens.
Outside it’s a tourist shopping area – Jinli (The Jin Lane). It was called the “first street of the kingdom Shu” and there you find a lot of traditional Chinese souvenirs and daring Chinese food like rabbit heads.
Open Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Ticketing: RMB 60
How did I get there: Visitors can take some bus routes 1, 57, 82, 334, and 335, but I would recommend venturing by taxi.
The outskirt of Chengdu
Lastly, Chengdu is the center of the entire Sichuan province with the surrounding nature and wonders. Many Sichuan famous locations are just 1-2 hours away. For example, the Leshan Giant Buddha and Mount Emei, Mount Qincheng, the city of Chongqing, the city of Mianyang, Dujiangyan – a great hydraulic engineering project in ancient China. Not to mention the Jiuzhaigou natural reserve, which is merely an hour’s flight away :).