Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda

My trip to the land of Pandas and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (25 Sep 2015)
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Just in late September this year, Y decided to head to Chengdu with R and me to celebrate her birthday and also more importantly to check out this city known for my favourite black and white Pandas. R’s parents also came along given they had once stayed in this country years ago and had fond memories of it, but they skipped the Panda visits since they preferred to stroll through some of their other favourite haunts.

Apparently, there’s an estimated 1800 plus wild giant pandas, living in central China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu Provinces. So it’s no wonder that panda bears can be seen everywhere in Chengdu, it’s on billboards, many souvenir shops, walking in costumes. And the recently completed IFC building in Chengdu invited renowned artist Lawrence Argent, to create a super amazing sculpture of a giant panda climbing the 120 foot high IFS building in central Chengdu, and that’s what you have below in pictures. It was a sight to behold!

Pandas spotted everywhere in Chengdu including this masterpiece by Lawrence Argent for IFS Chengdu.

Anyway, coming back to my visit and more about visiting the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base. Prior to our visit, the friendly and super efficient concierge team of Ritz Carlton Chengdu (our ‘home’ while we were gonna be in Chengdu), advised us in terms of which location to go see the pandas and even the best time to catch them. So for the sake of everyone’s benefit, there’s a few important things I need to share with you on seeing the pandas.

  1. There’s a few locations to see pandas, but the one that’s most popular and rather large and closest to the city of Chengdu is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, or simply Chengdu Panda Base. It is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and other rare animals such as the red pandas.
  2. Many people think you can just ‘donate’ money and then take a selfie with the pandas. Well, it’s really hard these days as the pandas are easily susceptible to many diseases and they don’t want to jeopardise the pandas falling sick or worse dying. According to my trusted Ritz Carlton concierge – Luke, he advised me that there’s another location called Dujiangyan Base panda garden where we can hold the panda and take photos but it takes about 1.5 hours to go there. Seems this location has a volunteer program that allows visitors to take pictures holding a panda but picture taking is still suspended in the other two panda bases (Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base, and Bifengxia Giant Panda Base). The reopening date is to be advised.
  3. You need to decide what’s your aim in visiting the Pandas. It is a better choice to go to the Chengdu Research Base if your aim is to see many pandas which was our main intention (hopefully they will allow pictures with the pandas soon).
  4. Best time to go to the Chengdu Research Base is usually in spring or autumn where temperatures are cooler which is more comfortable for the pandas and yourself, and also early before 9 am due to temperature rising later in the day and also avoiding too many tourists coming in throngs by late morning (more information on the different months for visiting at the bottom of the post).

How exciting, am finally here!

After sitting in a hired car that the hotel arranged for us, we arrived 30 mins later at the entrance just before 9 am. Upon arrival, we noticed the dynamic entrance shaped in a Panda face outline and all things panda including the security office next door had also panda images. It was so cute!

Panda security office.

Panda figurines welcoming us.

After buying our tickets, armed with the map, we quickly planned a concise way to cover the entire area in under 2 hours. The entire area is an ecological conservation base that spans 100 hectares, filled with beautiful manicured gardens, pandas in different enclosed and open enclosures and more. It was really beautiful and the early autumn weather of 20 degrees also made it all the more nicer. The park has a regular little open air mini bus that we can hop on and drop off at designated areas. So we took it all the way to the deepest end and started walking from there.

Our first stop was the Giant Pandas House where young Pandas were held in large rooms for us to observe. It was so cute to see them frolicking around, climbing up and down trees and other makeshift wooden obstacles that had been set up for them, and especially seeing their greedy faces munching away at the bamboo.

There were already a fair bit of tourists at this hour in the morning and we had to jostle to get a nice look at these cute pandas. I just felt bad for the pandas as I don’t think they really like loud noises and some of the tourists were really loud.

We moved on to the Nursery House next where new borns and baby pandas of few months old are housed here. Apparently this time of the year is where we can have the chance to see new borns, and we heard a pair of twins was just born and that’s really tough work given how sedentary pandas are. We got to see a tiny little pinkish panda baby, it was so strange to see how tiny they are as babies before they become this giant huge panda adult bear. There were also some slightly bigger, few months old pandas lying on the mat sleeping. They were all so adorable! I wish I could just scoop them up in my paws and hug them!

Few months old pandas sleeping.

After observing in the covered glass enclosures, I was excited to go out and hopefully spot some pandas in the open enclosures and I was so lucky to see quite a few out and playing or mostly being greedy and eating their favourite food – bamboo! Even the concierge at Ritz Carlton was surprised I managed to see so many, which she attributed was probably the cooler weather and the earlier time we went to see them. The pandas you see here in the pictures below are on average around 4 – 5 years of age.

Another greedy panda fixated on her food. 

I was quite lucky to then find myself super near a panda bear at an observation point where the panda was just below us, and it slowly crawled forward resulting in a funny all flat position with his head hanging down. I suspect he was definitely looking for his food that you can’t see in the picture below.

Panda and me selfie = Bearfies!

I walked further down after and spotted more of the panda bears coming out into the open enclosure and having their food, it was really a sight to behold. I was only thinking don’t they get bored with only bamboo? Clearly not.

I love this chillax looking panda with just one bamboo in her mouth.

This whole research conservatory doesn’t just have pandas, it also has red pandas that’s also another protected species. They clearly don’t look anything like their black and white counterparts, and to me look more like a cross between a cat and a fox with their slightly more feline mannerisms and face shape. Apparently they also enjoy bamboo but the one I was lucky to see was busy devouring tons of pumpkin. And an interesting fact is they have a ‘pseudo’ thumb on their paw which helps them to grab things or to feed.

We ended the round up of seeing pandas with seeing the older pandas lastly in the adult and sub-adult panda enclosures. The pandas here were obviously much bigger. The throngs of tourists had emerged by now and it was so hard to take a proper picture of any panda, especially one that was clearing his bowels caught the attention of the tourists and everyone was trigger happy with their cameras. I would feel horrified to be under the scrutiny of people when I am doing my private business but I guess for the pandas here, they must be used to it. I was quite fortunate to take one of these lovely adult pandas resting. Apparently one of the pandas in this area named Mei Lan were born in 2006, not sure if it could have been the one below.

Overall, the park was really a lovely experience and definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Chengdu. They have striked a great balance with creating a beautiful park with trees, flora, fauna, lakes, little hills in between with other creatures such as swans, peacocks and other birds living alongside the pandas. The swaying wild bamboo plants flanking the park paths also gives it a great atmosphere, and almost reminded me of those gongfu movies where I can do qi gong and possibly levitate on one of the bamboo plants * yes am just daydreaming.

I was just wishing I could bring back a panda home, it would make such a great friend, but I think Singapore’s weather will just kill the poor panda, plus am not sure where I would find so much bamboo to feed the big bear.

For more information on Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, visit www.panda.org.cn. 1375 Panda Road, Northern Suburb, Chengdu, Sichuan. Zip: 610081

From their brochure – visitation tips:

Jan-Feb: raising cubs, panda training

March-May: Courtship and mating, cubs grow to adolescence, panda training

June-July: Cubs grow to adolscence, summer camp, bird watching

Aug-Oct: Cubs are born, maternal care, hand-rearing, panda training (So we were really lucky to go this time, since we caught some new borns!)

Nov – Dec: maternal care, hand-rearing, panda training.

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