I have read in the newspaper today about two baby pandas, two pandas born in my old home – Chengdu! To be more precise, they were born in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Although it could arguably do with a snappier name, the centre is an amazing place. We visited the centre twice and the work they do is incredible. The Giant Panda only lives naturally in Sichuan and a couple of neighbouring provinces, we were literally in the middle of panda territory and to see them up close and personal was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. We had visited Edinburgh zoo the year before to see them, it was great at the time but the research centre is on a different level. No disrespect to Edinburgh zoo! In Chengdu there are pandas of all ages and sizes, even red pandas which I’d never even heard of before visiting.
The aim of the centre is to fight the decline of panda numbers and the stats would suggest they’re doing pretty well. According to our good friend Wikipedia, the centre began with a mere 6 pandas which has grown considerably over the years and is still growing. We saw with our own eyes the baby pandas kept safely in their incubators. Long may it continue, I think we can all agree the world needs more pandas.
Now you have seen one, would it be quite heartless to say that the babies aren’t exactly cute? They do kinda resemble pink rats, let’s be honest. I think the real stars of the show were the ones about toddler age. By then they’ve developed the trade-mark black and white fur. We got there in the morning when they had energy and wanted feeding, to see a panda is a treat but to see a panda with energy is the cherry on top! They were roaming about, fighting over apples and generally being adorable.
It takes quite a lot for me to call something cute, it’s not a word I use freely – I’m hard to please. However, even
miserable serious old me was ‘awwing’ away over these guys. They have been the screensaver on my phone for the past year. Don’t you just want to give one a hug? Well, you can! At the centre you can meet a panda 1-to-1 if you earn more than an English language teacher. I don’t think I need to recommend the centre, if you’re considering going to Chengdu there’s no way you wouldn’t already have this planned in your itinerary but nevertheless – GO GO GO. You’ll not only see these gorgeous creatures but you’ll also be supporting their survival. A cheap admission fee, a worthy cause and the unique chance to see lots of pandas in a natural environment. It’s a no-brainer, here’s to many more pandas in the future.