On a beautiful November Sunday afternoon, my students and I visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. I cannot begin to tell you the thrill of that morning just thinking about how lucky I should consider myself that I get to see them live rather than on TV. You have got to make sure that you visit this haven at some point in your lifetime and I can assure that you wouldn’t regret not even for a tiniest little bit!!
I wouldn’t boast of walking by the entire 100 hectare of the panda world but as per my calculation and my aching toes I suppose I covered at least more than half of the entire area.
I haven’t done any study on Panda’s per say but here are a few facts I figured out reading the books available and watching the documentary at the reserve.
Now Giant Panda’s are classified as Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae, Ailuropodinae and finally their genus and species are Ailuropoda melanoleuca. Although 90% of their regular diet is bamboo, in the distant past, they ate meat. Of course now they have been accustomed to eating only bamboos and so are classified as Carnivorous.
I must applaud and appreciate the efforts this reserve has put into keeping this place so lovely, clean and healthy for breeding Panda’s. I was informed there are a total of 130 Panda’s in the captive breeding program all over the country and about 70% are here at this reserve. If you want a peek at the cute gullible baby Panda’s you have to plan your visit at the right time which should be around October, November or December. This is just a suggestion as I was informed that the mating season happens during spring and the female gives birth during August or September to either just one or two cubs in a year. I was awestruck when I saw that each enclosure for a Panda (sometimes two) had about 8 air conditions fitted so that the temperature for their cute giant bears is always cold and to their liking.
The ticket is about 60 RMB or upto Rs.650 and going there in the early hours would be a better suggestion since it gets dark really early in Sichuan Province. There are numerous convenience services offered to visitors like providing you umbrella’s, wheelchairs, baby carriages, crutches and sewing kit (incase you tear your clothes out of excitement I guess!) all for free. Of course if you get tired walking through the various paths and terrains and need a rest there are benches on the side of the path’s or you can just go to a close by restaurant within the vicinity of the reserve to freshen up, use the washrooms or even go sit within the Rose garden enclosure. Hundreds of acres of grass and flowers of brilliant colors sprinkle the hills and borders the swan lake. And you have peacocks/peahens running everywhere not really afraid of visitors anymore. It’s spectacular!!
When I say Swan lake, I not only mean beautiful Black and White Swans who nibble food from your hands without hurting you or your child but also the numerous bright colorful fish that are outnumbered and you can literally touch them and they don’t scare off. It’s a funny funny world out there. (Being a fish lover, mostly eating I literally had to close my mouth shut and gulp every few seconds the liquid of greed forming in my mouth).
And you just cannot miss the ‘Sunshine delivery house’ and the ‘Moonlight delivery house’ for the Giant Panda’s if you are there during the right season, because here you will get sneak peak at the most adorable, cuddlesome little things on this earth. Some babies might be too small to be put on the wooden crib so you can only see them inside their incubators through a glass wall.
If you want to hold a Panda and click pictures with them make sure you are ready to shell out 2000 RMB or Rs.22000. It’s an expensive affair for just a picture and a touch but the experience of once in a lifetime is worth it all!!
Other things you should not miss out on when visiting is the Giant Panda Discovery Centre which will lead you into research labs to help you learn the mysteries of the Panda’s. There is also a museum showing you the entire history and existence of Panda’s. Taxidermy has been done to the very first captive Panda who died when it was 6 months old and it is on full view at the museum. You can also visit the Panda Story cinema if you want to know more about their existence and their ancient history of them being trained for war etc. There are about 5 shopping areas where you can buy gifts for yourself and your loved ones starting from a Panda toothbrush stand, to cute funny Panda slippers, Bags, Jackets, caps etc. Buying it from elsewhere will cost you a tiny bit lesser but the thrill of owning a Panda toy or anything related to Panda is simply awesome wherever you end up buying it from. And if you want to send a postcard, a letter or a picture via mail to anyone across the world there is a post office too!!
So plan your next holiday to Chengdu, Sichuan and you can all thank me later for the spectacular experience you would have had. And if I am still around during your visit to Chengdu, I would make sure to show you around other places as well. Till then plan plan plan and make it happen!!
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