Andrew and I booked a morning tour through our hostel to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. We had definitely been looking forward to the visit, but the actual experience was much more incredible than even we had predicted. I'd seen pandas before at the San Diego Zoo, which spends tons of money advertising that they've got 2-3 pandas, most of whom sleep and hide in the corners of their large enclosure. We were lucky that our small tour arrived early - not only did we beat the crowds, but we also got to see the pandas up close at the time of day when they are most active.
Here are some panda facts to go with these awesome panda photo:
- Pandas eat mostly bamboo, but they evolved from a carnivorous bear line so their stomach is designed for meat consumption
- Per their reputation, pandas are extremely sexually reluctant - almost the whole purpose of the Chengdu center is to figure out how to get them to breed better
- Female pandas often give birth to twins but let the weak one die and focus their energy on the stronger of the two. The entertainingly translated informational video we saw said that "once a panda cub is born, the mother panda will care for, cuddle, and lick the baby panda, much like the Chinese woman." Awesome translation. Apparently though, when female pandas have their first pregnancy, they often don't get much maternal instinct, since in the video after one panda birth the mother was whacking the squealing pink cub it had just birthed around the floor with its paw and the caretakers had to go in and rescue it.
- Sometimes female pandas will also fake pregnancy in order to receive preferential food and other forms of treatment
- Finally, in modern panda centers babies are often born using artificial insemination, collected by a method called "massage and electrical stimulation"....oh my.
The best of my panda photos!