Chengdu, China — Pandas!

China has a myriad of sights to see. One of my favorite places in China is Chengdu. It’s a large city in Sichuan Province and is best known to westerners for being the prime breeding center for pandas.
Welcome to the Panda Breeding Base
Pandas had become endangered, and for good reason. Female pandas are fertile for one to two days a YEAR! Add to that the fact that pandas often expend more energy eating than the caloric content provides, and you have tired male pandas who really can’t be bothered.
Pandas chiefly eat bamboo, but because the energy required to chew and digest the bamboo is roughly equal to the energy they get from it, they are not lively. At the breeding center, the pandas have been acclimated to a more varied diet that provides them with more energy. In addition, the Chinese have actually developed “panda porn.” They actually screen suggestive movies so their pandas will become inspired.

At the Chengdu panda breeding ground, many of the female pandas are artificially inseminated and all of the pandas are monitored carefully and cared for so that their offspring are healthy. Most often, the panda has one cub, but there are also frequent occurrences of twins.

The breeding program has been enormously successful and pandas soon will not be an endangered species.
Mother and baby panda on closed circuit TV
Above, the mother panda is seen from above with a little fishlike thing on her chest. That is the baby panda. They are tiny when born, but they grow very rapidly. Visitors are not allowed to approach the rooms where the mother panda and her newborn offspring are. Instead, visitors can view them on these TV monitors. To see the cubs when they are somewhere between six months and two years old, one must put on paper booties over one’s shoes and walk by the nursery cages silently so as not to disturb the pandas.

Walking through the large panda base, one could spy pandas resting (of course).
Catching some rays
This panda was one that was somewhat domesticated. For $50, one could have a picture taken with him. We graciously declined.

Pandas are also a business for the Chinese. For a million dollars a year, a foreign zoo can rent a panda for 10 years. Of course, the zoo must meet certain criteria for how they will house and care for the panda. In addition, the zoos must work toward mating the male and female pandas, usually through artificial insemination, and the panda cubs also become the property of the Chinese government. So why would a zoo do it? Pandas are a huge draw for zoos. People are fascinated by the big furry animals. Add a baby panda, and the zoo attendance soars for the first two years. It pays.

In the US, one can see pandas in the zoos in Washington DC, San Diego, Memphis, and Atlanta.

And last but not least, the pandas have friends who live with them, red pandas, also known as firefoxes. They are not of a related species, but their distinctive markings remind people of pandas. Firefoxes are able to be domesticated and are both beautiful and entertaining. I seriously wanted to bring one home!
Red Panda / Firefox

Pin It on Pinterest