Heading to China? See the Giant Pandas

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February 15, 2011
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If you’re thinking of a trip to China, include a few days in the Sichuan Province, where you can tour beautiful temples, be surrounded by mountains and trees, and tour and volunteer at the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries.

In the mid 1960s, the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda was established at the Wolong Nature Reserve in the Sichuan Province. It is the earliest and largest panda reserve in China and is in the Ming Shan mountain range at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau. The Wolong National Nature Reserve has a reputation for its natural beauty.

Wolong means sleeping dragon and the story behind the name is that a giant dragon came wandering through the valley and fell in love with the beauty of the mountains and trees. The dragon decided to go to sleep and then never woke up.

The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries is the home to more than 30% of the world’s highly endangered Giant Pandas and is among the most important sites for the captive breeding of these pandas. Along with the Giant Panda, the sanctuary is a refuge to other endangered species. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries consist of seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks.

The most popular reserve to see and interact with pandas is the Wolong Panda Reserve, with about 150 pandas in its care, however, since the earthquake in 2008, many of the pandas have been staying at a sister site outside of Ya’an City. It is located about 2 hours outside of Chengdu which is in the Sichuan Province. The sister site, Bifengxia Panda Base, is accepting volunteers and actively working to care and preserve the pandas. Many of your panda duties as a volunteer would include feeding pandas, cleaning their enclosures, helping the medical staff, cleaning bamboo, and cleaning pandas.

If you’re not able to volunteer, you can still get a chance to pet, hug, and have a panda sit on your lap for an additional fee upon entering the reserve. Pandas are the rarest of the bear family and among the world’s most threatened animals. Its forest habitat has dwindled and poaching is a problem. The sanctuaries strive to preserve the species, educate the public, and prevent deforestation.

For more information about the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, visit their website.

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