Though not a National Treasure ourselves, my American friend and I should have set up our own exhibit and made some money on the side as many of the locals wanted to have a picture taken with us. We probably could have had our day paid for had we started charging for photos!
Pandas are China’s real national treasure. The only time I had seen pandas were in the zoo in Washington D.C. when the USA had pandas on loan from China many years ago. As cute as they were in DC, that was nothing compared to seeing the pandas up close and personal.
We started the day at 8 AM with a tour of the facility, followed by a cleaning of their indoor cages. Our group of six, who all happened to be from the US, shoveled panda droppings and swept away bamboo shoots, followed by a hosing of the floor of the cage. Yes, we paid to do this.
We were able to feed the pandas by sticking a sliced apple on the end of a stick and reaching it toward them. They would either bite it off of the stick or reach and grab it with their paws and put them in their mouths. I can even say we sampled some panda food. It was the mid autumn festival holiday and mooncakes are all the rage over here, so the pandas couldn’t be left out of the celebration, so the nutritionist whipped up some mooncakes for them too. These particular ones were made of corn, soy, and other items. We also crushed vitamins and Caltrate pills into small granules to mix with Enfamil and powdered dog food to give to one of the finicky eaters. We pushed other vitamins into sliced apples for the non finicky pandas.
After lunch, came the highlight of the day, holding the panda. I was amazed at how heavy he was. He was pretty solid, but after all, he is a bear. The time we got to hold the panda and be photographed was a bit rushed, but fun just the same. How often does one have the opportunity to snuggle with a cute little panda bear??
We took a tour of the nursery where several baby pandas were being cared for in incubators. Some were pink newborns about as big as my palm, while a couple of others had their black and white fur and were about a foot long. The center has imitated the bears natural habitat to make the best breeding and rearing facility possible. The park covers 92 acres and is expanding
The park itself was beautiful. Everywhere I looked I could spot a panda resting up high in a tree, or a couple of “teenagers” as they called them pushing each other out of the way to get to some bamboo shoots. The park was covered with verdant bamboo, beautiful flowers, and a nice walking path around a lake filled with koi.
I would recommend a trip to the research center if you visit China. For me, it was a beautiful and quiet get a way from the hustle and bustle and continual loudness of Shanghai.