I mentioned in my post from few weeks ago that I spent just over three weeks in China with my entire family. My mum and sister were interested in experiencing the Chinese culture, my husband had his eyes on the national parks but, me, on the other hand, had only one reason for trekking up there: GIANT PANDAS.
I absolutely, completely love Pandas and think they are the cutest thing ever to have walked this planet. They are also perhaps the only species that defies the Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” by beating all odds and continuing their legacy even though they are one of the fussiest creatures when it comes to breeding. A female Giant Panda is fertile for only one 36-hour period in the whole year, sometime between March and May. A male Panda’s sex drive is even more erratic. There is hardly any other mammal less interested in sex than a male Panda (except maybe their close relative, a brown bear). So much so that, in early days scientists used to show “Panda porn” to male Giant Pandas in captivity to encourage them to mate.
Anyway, this post is not about the strange mating behaviour of Pandas. This is about one of the most exquisite Panda conservation centre in the world that is doing a great job at rescuing and caring for these endangered animals. The reserve is located in the Bifengxia town of the Sichuan district of China and is called the “Bifengxia Panda Reserve”. To get here, you need private transport as public buses don’t come as far as to the reserve. Private chauffeured vehicles are available at reasonable daily rates from most agents around China. If you want to see Pandas in any form of action, make sure you get here early because these lazy (but, oh so cute) blighters sleep the day off after their early morning feed.
The park is located in a huge natural bamboo forest at an altitude of over 1000+ metres with over 20 different spots of Panda facilities. After the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 that destroyed nearly a quarter of Panda’s natural habitat, over 70 Pandas were brought to the Bifengxia. Today, the centre has a great record for Panda survival and breeding and continues to combine eco-tourism with conservation. They also run volunteer programs, for anything between a day to a few weeks, where you get an opportunity to be up close and personal with these little beasts.
Sichuan region has other Panda reserves, some of them closer to big towns, but if you want to see Pandas in their natural habitat I would recommend making the trek to Bifengxia. You will not regret it.