Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base

Located about 30 minutes outside of the center of the southern Chinese city of Chengdu is the Chengdu Research Base Of Giant Panda Breeding. If you're into pandas, this is the mother load:

The large, zoo-like facility houses 80+ pandas in a variety of settings and enclosures. One of the first areas that you get to see during your visit is the nursery where baby pandas are cared for. Yes, there are five baby pandas in this photo:

Did I mention, if you're a fan of pandas, then this place needs to be on your to-do list? Throughout the facility the staff is busy feeding the residents their diet of bamboo. You get to be so close that you can hear them chew.

At one of the pavilions they had this table set up where you can sample "Panda Bread", which is one of the foods that they feed them. The little samples are individually bagged and are about the size of a crouton.

I'm guessing that, like doggy biscuits, the intended consumer finds them delicious but humans (like me) find them less than delicious. I've seen pandas at the San Diego Zoo but I never realized that they like to eat while on their backs. They'll drag a branch of bamboo over top of themselves and munch away on it until all the leaves are gone. Here are two of the Chengdu locals macking out:

Like preschoolers after snack time (or you at your desk after lunch), the pandas all seemed to fall asleep around 11am after they were done their breakfast. This guy must have climbed up the tree and then fell asleep. One of the caretakers was yelling at him to try to wake him up but he gave up after a few minutes.

I thought these two guys were kinda' cute. To me they looked like a couple of panda-bear rugs or something.

In one of the enclosures a handler called these two pandas over and started playing the "cat-and-ball-of-string" game with some apples. I'm still not sure how I feel about this one but I hope that the pandas at least enjoy eating the apples.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get this photo once they were done with the "game":

I searched all over for the breeding part of the research base but the closest that I found was this poster in one of the pavilions. In case you're wondering what giant-panda nookie looks like...

Over at the rock-and-roll-panda enclosure:

Sorry, couldn't resist that last one. The city of Chengdu was another surprise in my voyage around China. It ended up being a nice town with lots to see and do. The Panda Base is definitely the highlight. I have to be honest though that I ate Japanese food while there. Yum, Kyushu ramen...

And, finally, a way-too-exciting video of pandas eating...

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