Chengdu Panda Base
Written by Brian Johnston
China’s premier panda breeding facility educates in conservation and provides the chance to get up close to one of the world’s most endearing – and endangered – animals.
The Panda Base is a vast park in Chengdu’s northern suburbs, where the pandas live in open enclosures surrounded by ditches. The best chance of seeing the pandas is during their morning feeding time (8:30–10am). In the afternoons, you’re more likely to see sleeping bundles of black-and-white fur.
When summer humidity hits, the animals often retreat to their air-conditioned quarters. In late summer, newborn cubs can be seen in the nursery; by autumn, they’re playing outside.
The Panda Base is quite interactive, encouraging and educating visitors on the importance of conservation. Call in at the museum, watch the 15-minute explanation about breeding, and browse the shop for everything panda, from serious books to kitschy souvenirs.
Visitors can volunteer at the base, cleaning out cages and feeding pandas. There’s an opportunity (around US$300) to hold a baby panda, but it’s a unique and endearing animal experience.
The bear facts
Chengdu Panda Base is primarily a scientific research and breeding centre that aims to save highly endangered animals from extinction through breeding programmes and wildlife management. The base was opened in 1987 with six pandas captured in the wild. It has since seen the birth of 124 panda cubs and now has around 100 pandas at any one time. Although giant pandas get most of the publicity, the centre also houses red pandas, golden monkeys, South China tigers, black-necked cranes, and other rare species.