ChengDu (II) Giant Panda Breeding Research Base

Are they cuuuuuuuuute! I never understood why Giant Pandas are called giant…to my limited knowledge they fall pretty much short of any other bear’s size. But, oh…they are so giantly cuuuuuute!

Giant Panda Breeding Reasearch Base (大熊猫繁殖研究中心)

I had followed a Lonely Planet recommendation to jump on an organized tour to this research base as it is quite far outside and next to impossible to reach by public transportation; only to witness upon arrival that the ChengDu Tourist Board seemed to have read Lonely Planet, too: There’s now a tourist bus starting from the “Tourist Bus Stop”, wherever that is, to the research base, by way of several other stops inbetween.

Well, this “organized” tour was an experience by itself: 100 RMB for a car, that picks you up at your hotel, waits for no apparent reason for 15 minutes at the Mix Hostel (like in Africa: it’s just about the art of waiting…nobody is able later to tell you why; here with the additional difficulty that none of the drivers spoke English), brings you then to the base directly, and then drivers of four cars try to route a group of 20 expats through the garden with no communication due to the still immanent lack of English knowledge. BTW: Admission is just 30 RMB, which I find very reasonable. Thus, 70 RMB for transportation, which is arguable.

I had expected we were given the tickets and then let alone to stroll over the area, and tried to apply my limited Chinese knowledge to find out about the return time. But forget it…the drivers guide your way. But as it is inevitable that we cross other (better organized) gorups’ way several large groups will soon mix and it is sometimes quite difficult to figure out where “we” actually are and where to go next. In case of doubt I tried to find “my” driver, who acknowledged my attempts of speaking Chinese, but kept on rattling ununderstandably in a speed which probably even for his wife is difficult to follow.

Consequently, when trying to return we had to wait quite long until all people were back at the van. And as luck strikes: My van was by far the last to collect all people. No issue…I only wanted to get to the airport. And there I was still way too early…

CD_20070701_083648.jpg: Once we understood the tour concept we started enjoying the pandas. Did I mention they were cute…? They really were. Often two of them fighting playfully with each other.

CD_20070701_083838.jpg: The lower panda here, currently lying on the back, will a few moments later slide down the embankment, which caused quite some laughter from the spectators.

CD_20070701_084345.jpg: Another main ‘activity’ of pandas is, as we all know, hard-core relaxing.

Did you notice the picture timestamps? No, I didn’t fake them. And these here aren’t even the first. The first ones, about two Pandas fighting to get hold of a wooden swing, are unfortunately blurred, but start at 08:28, usually a that time I would still enjoy breakfast. And that only because hotel breakfast time is limited…

CD_20070701_090031.jpg: Panda-seeking picture of another enclosure for younger padas. I count 4 pandas.

CD_20070701_090207.jpg: One of them after descending from a tree. Also watch the weird toys they have…didn’t see any panda swinging on that plastic duck. But would have been a funny picture.

CD_20070701_090942.jpg: Two very young ones. Like escaped from a sounvenir booth. So cuuuuuuuute….

CD_20070701_085325.jpg: Some might have vaguely heard that pandas feed on bamboo. Should be no surprise to see that the park of the breeding research base is mostly decorated with bamboo. I wouldn’t wonder if staff harvests these bamboos, too, to feed them to the pandas as they need an enormous amount of bamboo each day. See later.

CD_20070701_092237.jpg: Looks a bit like a red badger (German: Dachs), doesn’t it? But has been introduced to us as…

CD_20070701_092305.jpg: …Red Panda. By far not as big is the “Giant” Pandas. Maybe that’s where the name comes from…

Next stop was a short video about the work at the Breeding Research Base. And now only it became apparent why this base is called “Breeding Research” base: The staff’s main job here is to help the panda reproducing themselves. And if they happen to be too silly to do it themselves then the base has even developed an artificial insemination approach. Looking at the video one could not but think: The Giant Panda is not fit for survival. According to the “survival of the fittest” it should be long extinct:

  • Except for climbing on trees the panda has no method of defence against far larger and faster enemies like even tigers.
  • It has a highly inefficient digestion, taking on only 2% of the bamboo he eats, meaning: 98% come out ‘at the end’ undigested, which accounts mostly for his enormous bambo consume. (Luckily, bamboo is a fast growing plant one could add sarcastically.)
  • The male penis is comparably too short.
  • The female can cater only for one cub, mostly due to insufficient milk for more than one. If twins are born then usually one cub is abandoned and only one is grown.
  • Baby pandas are largely underdeveloped when born. The video showed several births. The female panda gives birth to a hairless pink blind something not larger than a mouse, which means: smaller than a panda’s paw. (Well, there is at least one advantage: The birth bears absolutely no risk to the female…at some day the baby just pops out.) Looks like born about 2 months too early. And indeed: The next 2 months are critical for the baby as it keeps on developing essential parts of its body like eyes, fur, and legs, which support his minimalistic weight.

Today’s Lesson: Pandas are unfit for survival, but so cuuuuute!

Categories: AsiaChengDu

Originally Created: 07/01/2007 04:28:56 PM

Last Edited: 07/01/2007