Archive for February, 2010

Chengdu (Part 4): I Want My Panda Hat!

China > Sichuan > Chengdu

Saturday, 23 Jan 2010

Leaving the Red Panda enclosures, we pass through more majestic bamboo forest.

Then ‘The Sign’ … please excuse us for being a tad excited! 😀

The Giant Panda enclosures are designed to be as natural as possible, with the raised viewing footpath discretely tucked at the side.

The first thing we see are huge blobs of black-and-white furballs, obviously pandas having a snooze after the morning feeding. These critters spend most of their time either eating or sleeping. I can surely relate to that.

Suddenly a stir, as a fully-awake panda steps over two sleeping friends. Are we in for a show now?

Nope, the bear just saunters over to find a nice spot for a snooze, what else?

No fun watching sleeping pandas – they look like fat slobs – so we move on to another enclosure for better luck.

Yes, we are lucky, a panda is awake, and eating of course. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep, …, maybe mate too.

Yes, gorging itself with delicious bamboo as its mate sleeps at an odd spot. This thing can sleep anywhere, anytime.

Interestingly, the ‘herbivorous’ panda has a carnivore’s digestive system, and hence cannot maximise extraction of energy and protein from bamboo. But since almost 100% of its diet is bamboo, a panda has to consume a lot of the stuff, some 10-15kg a day.

And where does the bamboo come from?

Suddenly an adult panda appears and rolls on its side to put up a show exclusively for us. Scratching its huge tummy, its bum, and its sides …

… before rambling down the wooden platform. They like to conserve their energy due to the bamboo diet, though a Chinese emperor once trained them to attack enemy soldiers. I wonder how a Giant Panda could ever harm people – it looks so docile and harmless, cuddleable in fact. Killing with its cuteness?

An illustration on how big an adult Giant Panda is, vis-a-vis humans.

Their habitat is faithfully recreated, and everywhere we look inside the enclosures, there are pandas. This Panda Centre, founded 1987, now has some 80 captive pandas, and is a major tourist site in China. Come in warmer seasons, and it’s jam-packed with people.

We spot a panda about to have its meal again …

… and observe the fine art of bamboo-eating.

Choose best leaves … hold with paws … cut with teeth …  arrange in jaw … grasp with paw … munch away … burp … grin … <repeat till tummy full>

Enough live pandas for the day, we find our way out.

In the woods, we stumble upon the Panda Coffee House. Being off-season winter, patrons are hard to come by.

We order declicious hot steaming coffee and pancakes, in the company of a bunch of boisterous Japanese.

After coffee, we saunter over to nearby Swan Lake. There’s a Black Swan, imported from Australia, maybe?

The colourful koi fish are in full force, fighting over scraps of food chucked over by the few visitors.

A pair of kids are engrossed with the fish and the birds too.

Looks like a Ruddy Shelduck to me, pretty when wings are extended. Migratory, this bloke should be in warm South Asia by now.

And of course, the awesome Blue Peacock.

Auwwww, look at that ear-muff!

And I just have to take a good pic of this handsome model and his panda jacket, so I tail him …

… and I’m not disappointed.

On the way out finally, and just before the gate, we pop into the museum which is at the visitor centre up the hill to the right.

A sobering display shows how much panda habitat has been destroyed. Green shows historical distribution of pandas, now restricted to red areas located mainly in Sichuan province. Smaller panda settlements are found in the neighbouring provinces of Shaanxi, Yunnan and Gansu.

So this is how the cuddly panda looks on the inside.

We exit the Panda Base, and across the road, there are panda shops. Get your panda fix here, rather than inside the Panda Base, since prices here are much cheaper. Haggle-able some more.

And finally, me and my lovely pandas!


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