The Giant Panda Reserve Centre in Sichuan focuses on panda breeding and bamboo ecology. The centre was founded with assistance from World Wildlife Fund. It takes care of pandas in three situations: pandas brought up from captive breeding, pandas somehow dispersed from their packs, and pandas rescued from injury and have lost the ability to survive in nature. The goal is to release the pandas into the wild.
My family signed up for to be volunteers at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Breeding Centre.
At the start of our “job”, we dropped by at the “panda kindergarten” to hug the little pandas. Before entering the enclosure, we had to put on a disposable suit and sanitize ourselves before we were led into the enclosure. It was indeed a magical moment when we came face to face with the cute pandas and hugged them! The baby pandas were simply adorable; one longed to be hugged, the other started chewing my daughter’s shoes and another ran to hide. The kids and I ran wild trying to hug the adorable pandas! Very soon, it was time to leave the enclosure (for the welfare of the little pandas, we only allowed to spend five minutes with them). Though it was really a short encounter, we spent our most memorable moment there.
We went back to the nursery to observe another baby panda that started learning how to crawl. From the windows of the intensive care unit, he looked like a stuff toy panda until he started moving! The nursery at the Centre is staffed 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to care for the newborn pandas, which require feeding every three to four hours. Extensive diaries are kept on each newborn.
Very soon, we were ready for our volunteer duty. The panda ate a mixtures of carrots, apples and bamboo cakes (specially mixed with vitamins) which we fed through the fencing of the iron cage. While the pandas were enjoying their food, we dragged bamboos onto a cart and carried them into the empty enclosures to get dinner ready; a panda feeds on about 30kg of food per day, so one can imagine how much is being passed out as waste! Of course, the job entailed cleaning up that huge amount of the waste too! I was more than happy when my kids fought over to sweep the enclosure and clean the waste up. It was hard work but really something new for the kids!
It was truly a rewarding day and though we stepped out of the centre tired, we were awarded a panda certificate and were pleased to have spent time with the cuddly animals!