I’m stopping over in Chengdu China on my way back from visiting the “Stans” of Central Asia. Chengdu is famous as the home of the endangered Giant Panda. The weather here is perfect for them – warm and wet – just what you want for growing lots of bamboo. I’m very lucky that it’s actually clear and sunny! A rare occurrence, especially in winter, and a great opportunity to capture some photos of people enjoying themselves outside.
Chengdu – The People
Chengdu is often considered the most livable of China’s megacities. For a population of 15 million, it has surprisingly pleasant and large parks and green spaces. The People’s Park is on the most popular, of course.
Like all Chinese cities, there’s also a large central square with a huge Mao statue.
Chengdu – The Pandas
These adorable bears once roamed far and wide throughout much of China but today there are only about 1,500 alive, nearly all of them in captivity. The Chengdu Panda Research Base is the largest panda conservation project in the world and it’s easy to visit while in Chengdu.
If you’ve ever seen pandas at a zoo elsewhere in the world, that zoo pays a fee to China to “borrow” the pandas (all pandas in the world are property of China and any born in captivity outside China must be returned). Those funds help support projects like the research base.
The ultimate goal of the research base is to reintroduce pandas into the wild. They have yet to do that and there’s no guarantee it will work but as the national pride of China, everyone is hopeful.
Right at 7:30am as the entrance gates opened, there was a mad dash to be the first to get to the pandas. I didn’t really know where I was going – it’s a huge park – so I just stopped at the first enclosure that looked promising. I couldn’t have been more lucky. For 10 minutes I got to watch a baby panda climb all over mom and I had this all to myself.
Then the crowds arrived. Yes, it’s China so expect things to be a bit busy. Just come early and during the cold months.
But these adorable bears are well worth it.
Don’t forget the smaller and more active Red Pandas too.