Everyone knows about this cute animal but how many do realise that the giant panda has recently been removed from the endangered species list? Panda is now considered ”just” vulnerable of extinction thanks to the amazing work of the research centres around Sichuan Province, China, where scientists, organisations and everyday people have been trying for decades to increase the pandas’ population. One of these organisations is the «Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding» that we just visited for a day full of pandas!
There are many Giant Pandas Research Bases within Sichuan Province but this is the closest to Chengdu city (the capital of the province) and one of the best for 2 reasons: the animals (at least in wintertime) are kept outside and not in cages and the conditions are as near as possible to their natural environment (not like in the zoos) and secondly and the most important… the staff has proved that really makes the efforts to increase the population of the pandas. They started 20 years ago with 6 pandas and they have raised 146 so far! Taking into account that a female panda gives birth to 1 baby per year (and not even every year…) this number is incredible!
This base is big enough for a full day excursion however, many people choose a half-day tour. If you just want to walk around and learn a few things, a 2-3 hours visit is sufficient but if you (like me!) fancy to:
– observe the pandas
-wait for their next movement (pandas are very bored and lazy animals!)
-wander (no rush!)
… you may end up spending 6-7 hours here without even noticing!
There are many enclosures with adult giant pandas, an area with red pandas (did you know about these?), two museums, some souvenirs stores and cafes/ restaurants, one (real!) post office where you can send postcards and small gifts worldwide, two delivery centres for the giant pandas and one for the red pandas (lucky enough if you see babies!) , a small cinema with a short movie in Chinese and English, a lake etc…
Considering how expensive is to visit the area with a tour operator, we decided to arrange the excursion independently. As we are currently based in Chengdu and thanks to the metro that recently launched its third line, the journey is extremely easy and much cheaper (details below)!
Unfortunately, having animals in captivity is not ideal. Wild animals should remain wild and not in dependence from the humans. People ought to take care of the environment before the species turn into «endangered». In the terms of ethic, I consider these captive pandas the «sacrificed» generation so their progeny will be able to live back in nature…or even to exist! Hence, at present, these pandas are helped to breed and expand their population and some of the youngest ones have already been released back! The balance is very tricky though. If we don’t visit these bases the pandas (and the scientists) will be relied on government / companies funding only, making them even more vulnerable. On the other hand, if we keep visiting them, the pandas at some point may be remained in captivity just for the mass earnings and not for their own good. However, without proper environmental education the second possibility looks very unlikely! A future with no endangered species list seems unrealistic, right?
How to get to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding : From Chengdu take the metro line 3 and get off at Panda Avenue (price 2-8 CNY = £0.2-0.9 depending on the first station) . Take the exit A and ignore the «panda buses» that are outside – these are touristic and far more expensive! Instead, walk to the main road (about 50 meters) where you turn left and find the bus stop. Hop on the 198 or 198A (2CNY!) and hop off at the Xiongmao Jidi in about 15 minutes – the entrance is on the other side of the avenue! Not to worry if you don’t understand the Chinese alphabet – you will easily recognise the stop due to the crowds and the touristic buses that are parked everywhere! The entrance costs 58CNY (£6.6) and half price for (even international) students! Easy and cheap!!
In the meantime let’s enjoy this amazing creature! What do you think? Would you visit this place?