Chengdu Travel Guide
Panda Breeding Research Center
This research base set up in 1987 has bred and raised over 88 giant panda cubs, scoring well over the usual captive survival rate. While so far this has been for the benefit of zoos, the center’s main aim is to start returning pandas to the wild. One of the best places to see pandas in China, the center currently displays around 30 red and 83 giant pandas. Mostly inactive, they can be seen chewing piles of arrow bamboo or sleeping.
- 6 miles (10 km) NE of Chengdu
- 8:30–5pm daily
The famously rare giant panda occurs only in China, and, according to recent genetic tests, is distantly related to the bear. The wild panda population of around 1,600 is increasing, though with perhaps only another 370 in zoos worldwide, they remain seriously endangered. There is added concern following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which seriously affected the panda population and habitat. Pandas feed primarily on bamboo. They have developed large molars for grinding up the stalks, but are not well adapted to digesting them and so spend almost all their waking hours eating. Bamboo flowers and dies off simultaneously over huge areas, periodically depriving giant pandas of their food source. In the past, they could travel to other regions to find more bamboo to eat, but now their habitat has been carved up by development. Some 49 reserves are dedicated to panda preservation in China, including the Wolong reserve near Chengdu.
|Pandas in the wild are occasionally seen in family groups, but mostly they live a solitary existence for much of their 25 years in a clearly defined territory marked out by scent. One theory for their striking coloration is that it helps them recognize each other in the forests.||Pandas eat between 35 and 65 pounds (15 and 30 kg) of bamboo a day, despite having a carnivore’s digestive tract. They only digest 20 per cent of the nutrients, so spend the rest of the day asleep, conserving energy.||A panda baby weighs just 31/2 oz (100 g) at birth – compared to the adult’s 440 lb (200 kg). The cub is carried by the mother for 90 days and stays on with her for up to three years.|
|Pandas are not prolific breeders, even in the best equipped zoos, as they only have a brief breeding window (for only a few days in spring) and they are extremely choosy about whom they mate with.||Breeding programs in Sichuan saw 32 births (with 29 survivors) in 2008. Artificial insemination is usually used. Incubators reduce the high infant mortality found in the wild.||The panda’s paw is adapted to its special diet. The wrist is modified into a sort of opposable “thumb” that helps it to grasp delicate bamboo stems.|