Visit Pandas in China
A trip to China wouldn’t be complete without visiting China’s beloved giant panda, but did you know that you can also volunteer with pandas? Below are two ways your family can get up-close and personal with these Chinese national treasures, but first, here are a few random panda facts:
- Giant pandas are about 2-3 feet tall and 4-6 feet long.
- In the wild, male pandas weigh up to 250 pounds and female pandas weigh up to 220 pounds.
- Pandas only inhabit a few mountain ranges in central China, but development, farming, and deforestation have driven the giant panda out of some of these areas.
- Now, with a population of less than 2,000, pandas are on the endangered species list are are protected under Chinese law.
- Since 1984, pandas found outside of China are on 10-year loans to those nations. Countries must pay a fee of up to $1,000,000 per year, over half of which must go towards panda conservation efforts. Any panda cubs born during the loan are the property of China.
Volunteer with Pandas
Dujiangyan’s Panda Keeper Program is the only opportunity in China to volunteer with pandas and get your photo taken holding a panda (for an additional fee). Unlike the popular Chengdu Panda Base (more info below), Dujiangyan Base is closed to the public with the exception of this volunteer program. This base specializes in giant panda rescue and disease prevention.
Where: Near Chengdu, China (about an hour and a half away)
Ages: Though there is no official age restriction, they recommend that your child be at least 6 years old to volunteer with pandas. Younger children may still attend at a reduced cost and their guides will help care for them as you volunteer. Children 2 and under are free, but must be cared for by their parent.
Volunteer Info: In the morning, you’ll be picked up and driven to the Panda Base. Spend the first part of your morning touring the base, cleaning panda enclosures, and learning more about the pandas’ living conditions. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take photos of the pandas throughout the day. After lunch, you’ll spend time feeding the pandas and helping to prepare panda cakes for them to eat. Since the panda’s diet consists largely of bamboo, you might get to plant bamboo in their bamboo garden. You’ll also have time to explore the Panda Rescue Exhibition Hall and watch a short documentary to learn how humans can better protect these gentle giants.
This opportunity to volunteer with pandas is booked as a tour through China Highlights. China Highlights will pick you up from your hotel in Chengdu. Only 20 volunteers can participate in this program each day, so be sure to book in advance. Volunteer opportunities are available year-round.
The cost to participate will vary slightly depending on the location of your hotel. One person is about $399, 2-5 people is about $279, 6-9 people is about $209. Children ages 2-11 cost a reduced rate. A portion of the tour fee will go to Dujianguan Panda Base to help care for the pandas. It can cost up to $16,000 to care for one panda each month, so the main way they raise fund for this is through selling additional photo opportunities with the pandas. If you’d like to get your photo taken with a panda, it will cost about $300 per person. A limited number of people can do this each day, so book in advance!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 86-773-2831999
Bonus: China Highlights offers many other panda tours. Check out their other tours here.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to visit pandas, check out Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This research facility opened in 1987 to rescue and protect the endangered giant panda species. Now, the Chengdu Panda Base is well-known not only for heading up important research and for the breeding of giant pandas, but also for their off-site conservation efforts which help increase the giant panda population.
Where: About 6 miles north of downtown Chengdu.
Ages: All ages are welcome!
Info: The Chengdu Panda Base focuses on educational tourism and will provide your family with an opportunity to learn all about giant pandas and wildlife conservation. You’ll be able to observe pandas of all ages playing, eating, drinking, and resting. Visit the nursery to watch mama pandas nursing their cubs, or swing by the Panda Kitchen to watch bamboo being prepared and sample a “panda biscuit.” Their on-site Research Center is also a great place to learn more about these gentle giants!
If you read older reviews about the Chengdu Panda Base, many people will mention their “Caretaker Experience” where you can hold a panda and get your photo taken. As of January, 2015, this is no longer available in order to protect the pandas from canine distemper infection.
Pandas are most active and feeding during the morning, and are usually asleep by noon. Arriving early will also help to avoid the crowds! The Chengdu Panda Base is open year-round from 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM. Admission is about $10 (US).
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