China is world famous for its giant pandas, but unfortunately there’s not many left in the wild. Current estimates put the total number of pandas in the wild at less than 2,000. This is due to a combination of factors including China’s rapid industrialization, the limited amount of bamboo forests suitable for their habitat and the panda’s slow breeding process. But before you declare the battle to conserve the giant panda over, rest assured that China is doing everything possible to save its beloved national icon.
At the aptly named Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan Province a lot of work is being done to breed giant pandas and release them back into the wild. The center welcomes visitors to help fund their research and while it’s not as exciting as seeing a panda in the wild, this is probably the best opportunity travelers to China will have to get up close and personal with a panda bear.
What To Expect
The panda center is sort of a large zoo dedicated entirely to giant pandas and no single location in the world has a larger number of captive pandas. There are over 100 acres of natural enclosures for the animals where tourists can witness the pandas sleeping, playing and eating bamboo (so cute!). There is also the medical center where the breeding and research takes place. Visitors are able to feed and even hold baby pandas for approximately $150 US depending on availability.
Who Will Love It
Panda fanatics will be thrilled to visit the center. Families and children will also enjoy the center’s museum which has a number of modern and interactive exhibits dedicated to increasing knowledge of the giant panda.
Who Will Be Disappointed
Anyone expecting an authentic panda viewing experience will be disappointed. To be clear, these pandas are not in the wild, as the center has a zoo-like setting. While it’s a nice zoo by Chinese standards, it doesn’t compare setting wise with internationally renowned zoos like Singapore or San Diego.
Visitors with plenty of time and money can get off the beaten path a bit and travel north to Shaanxi Province to the Foping Nature Reserve. Amongst the reserve’s beautiful mountainous scenery and bamboo forests lies the largest concentration of wild pandas in the world. Safari treks spend as long as one week in the park in the hopes of spotting a panda in the wild.