Friday, April 20, 2012

Annie and Blue learn about pandas in Chengdu, China

We love pandas. Pandas are one of China’s natural treasures and the Chinese symbol for peace. We visited the Panda Breeding and Research Center just a few miles from Chengdu, China. It is an important center for preserving the pandas. If it wasn’t for the Panda Breeding and Research Center they might go extinct as they are on the endangered list.  There are two main reasons that the survival of the panda is in trouble.  A lot of the land where the panda use to live has been turned into farmland so now wild pandas live mainly in a few mountain areas.
 Their main food is bamboo and bamboo plants only grow in a few places. Each panda eats 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo each day so in the wild they spend most of the day looking for food and eating.  Giant pandas do not hibernate since their food is available all year long. The rest of the time they relax or sleep. We saw several who were sleeping in trees. At the research center the caretakers sometimes give them special treats - carrots, apples and sweet potatoes – which they love.  

We saw a sign that said, 
"In the end we will conserve only what we love;
we will love only what we 
understand; and we will understand only what we are taught."  

The center teaches people about pandas.  It also breeds and raises pandas.  The babies are basically born prematurely and can not survive on their own until they are several months old so their survival in the wild is difficult. Pandas are rather solitary creatures and first-time mothers do not always know how to care for their newborns right away.  If fact ,they said some first-time mothers are frightened by the mouse-size, hairless, crying baby and bat it away.  A mother panda usually has one baby at a time.  A newborn panda weighs about three to five ounces.  It is pink, hairless and blind.  They do not open their eyes until they are six to eight weeks old which is about the same time they develop their black and white fur. They can not move about on their own for three months. So, the mothers have to work hard to make sure their babies survive. The babies usually stay with their mother about two years.

 We didn’t see any newborns but had fun watching a toddler panda try to climb up to a platform.  He would get almost to the top which was about three feet off the ground and then tumble back.  It took about five tries before he finally made it. Panda cubs grow very slowly. They stay with their mother for one to two years. They are fully grown in 2-4 years.
Pandas may be really cute but they are still bears and can be just as dangerous as any other bear.  Wild animals even in a preserve or zoo are not something to play with. The giant panda is about the size of our black bear and, when standing on all four feet, it is about two to three feet tall and weighs about 250 pounds.  There are about 1,600 living in the wild and about 300 in zoos and breeding centers around the world. 

The Panda Center is beautifully landscaped with many trails. Luckily they had a trolley to take us to the panda viewing area and other parts of the park.  After watching the pandas in several viewing areas we took a trail to the area where we saw Red Pandas which are similar to North American raccoons. Actually they are not really pandas even though they call them that. The center also has a butterfly museum and a lake with storks and cranes. The center helps to insure the survival of several species but mainly the panda.

We saw another sign that we liked that quoted Cecil Frances Alexander.  It said, “All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small.  All things wise and wonderful.”  We are glad there are places we can visit and learn about our natural world.