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Pandas in Chendgu, China: How to ethically spend a day with them!

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Where to see pandas in China (not in the zoo! As close as possible to their natural environment please!)?

Everyone recognizes this cute animal but how many do realise that the giant panda has only 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!) organizing everything by ourselves without a pricey (and unnecessary) tour! Research Giant Pandas center



But why this Center is better than others?

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 (unlike the zoos that “keep” Pandas) and secondly and the most vital… the staff has already proved that really makes the efforts to increase the population of the pandas. They started 20+ years ago with 6 remaining sick and hungry pandas and they have raised 172 fetuses 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! On top of those they don’t allow hugs/ touches/petting at all and their “holding a baby panda” program has been suspended until further notice. 

what to expect in PAnda Base Chengdu

What to do in the Chengdu Panda’s Base

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

pandas in china chengdu
Their lunch time lasts half of the day!
pandas in china not in zoo
In love with this tongue!

-wait for their next movement (pandas are very bored and lazy animals!)

sleeping pandas
Come on guys! Wake up!!

-take photos (yes, you need to wait as you just realised!)

visiting panda base china
Let me hug them!!!!!!
visiting pandas in china
Sleeping like hell- again!

-read everything (panda related!)

panda facts
There are tons of valuable information if you really want to deepen your knowledge about pandas!

-wander (no rush!)

giant panda research base china
there are other animals besides pandas too!


chendgu things to do
Dimitris is undoubtedly taller than any Panda!

… you may end up spending 6-7 hours here without even noticing!

pandas eating
Why are you talking to me? Can’t you see I am eating -again?


There are many enclosures with adult giant pandas, an area with red pandas (have you heard about these? I literally had no clue beforehand), 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…

red pandas facts
The red panda is so fluffy!
red pandas china
Amazing colours (and attitude!), right? 

How to reach the Giant Pandas Base in Chengdu?

Considering how expensive is to visit the area with a tour operator, we decided to arrange the excursion independently. As we were based in Chengdu it was even easier (otherwise you need to get to Chengdu first, preferably by train or plane) and thanks to the metro that recently (in 2017) launched its third line, the journey is extremely easy and much cheaper (keep reading)!

where to see baby pandas
Baby Panda!
sleeping baby panda
How can you resist such cuteness?!

The cheapest way to get to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in details:  

From Chengdu take the metro line 3 and get off at Panda Avenue (price 2-8 CNY = £0.2-0.9 depending on the departure station) . Take the exit A and ignore the «panda buses» that are outside – these are touristic ones 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 ( only 2CNY!- 2018 price) and hop off at the Xiongmao Jidi after approximately 15 minutes – the entrance is on the other side of the busy 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 along the street! The entrance costs 55CNY (£6.5) and half price for (even international) students! Easy and cheap!!

chengdu metro
Panda Avenue here we are!

how to reach panda center in Chengdu
Even the metro ticket is the ideal souvenir from Chengdu!
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 ethical travelling, 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 which is a very encouraging sign! 
baby pandas facts
Jing-Yun is just 2,5 years old (in 2018!)
cute panda
… but already too tired of people! (oh boy, I agree with you)
Achieving a 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 species good. Since this topic requires further research and investigation, we, as travellers, should at least make our research before visiting any animal-related center so we can be as sure as possible that our visit won’t hurt further the animals. And of course we should avoid zoos at all costs! My two cents are that without proper environmental education (starting from a young age and keep going for our entire life), sadly, a future with no endangered species list seems pretty unrealistic. 

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What is your point of view regarding this? How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the endangered animals species? Would you visit pandas in China and especially in Chengdu (in an ethical center hopefully) ?

How to visit Pandas without a tour

How to see Pandas in Chengdu

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