Panda Love in Chengdu, China
While some people tightly cling to stuffed bears each night before they go to bed, those who visit the city Chengdu have the opportunity to sneak a peek at some real-life baby pandas. Adventurous travelers who have a soft spot for these snuggly creatures should plan a trip to the bustling Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province in China.
The city is home to a blend of breathtakingly beautiful sights, including the Qingcheng Mountain and the Wuhou Shrine. The most popular among these heavily traversed sites, however, is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, situated atop the Futoushan Mountain.
Giant pandas are native to the Chengdu region, but have become endangered in the past several years. Although the animals have been around since ancient times, according to the base's website, less than 2,000 are alive today. The government commissioned the creation of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in 1987 with the hopes that scientists from the Chengdu Zoo would be able to care for and conserve these precious pandas. Through a combination of studies, off-site efforts and innovative preservation tactics, the site has gained a reputation as one of the most successful breeding and housing programs in the world.
Chengdu Research Base welcomes visitors to the site
Employees work tirelessly to ensure giant pandas are comfortable and healthy. To raise awareness about the panda population and garner interest among international travelers, the base began giving educational tours for visitors to the area. Efforts made around the park are geared toward teaching tourists about the history of the giant panda and how they can make efforts in their daily lives to ensure the continued survival of other species.
The huge base and hosts a variety of endangered animal breeds, including swans, peacocks, red pandas and birds. However, it is most well known for its giant panda exhibits and attractions. Visitors can observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitats, examining how they play, eat, sleep and interact with environmental elements. Additionally, scientists lead several instructional courses for certain groups, illustrating how to feed and care for giant panda cubs.
As the base continues to grow in popularity and size, developers have announced their intention to build additional sites in the base. The Giant Panda Museum, for example, will soon be home to the extensive collection of protection, scientific and educational medals collected by scientists for their efforts toward conserving the panda population. The base's website details a second project that would work in conjunction with the idyllic Azalea Garden of China, situated nearby the historic research base.
First lady checks out the pandas in Chengdu
Michelle Obama visited the Chengdu Research Base during her trip to Asia in March. The first lady detailed her experience on the White House blog, explaining how she had the chance to view, feed and hold baby pandas at the beginning of her trek.
"We started our visit by viewing a group of five giant pandas who were about 18 months old and we got to feed them (we attached apples to the end of a long stick, and they reached up and grabbed them with their hands and mouths)," Obama wrote on the blog. " ... They were so tiny - like stuffed animals - and later, I got the chance to hold one of these little guys!"
She continued to describe how important the journey was, not only because she had the opportunity to interact with these endangered creatures, but also because she got to see firsthand the importance of the adoption of animal conservation efforts, a cause impossible not to care for.