Construction began in October of 2002 on the China Research & Conservation Center for the Giant Panda, Bifengxia Panda Center at Ya'an City, Sichuan Province. The Center opened in the fall of 2003.
This Giant Panda base is a branch of the China Conservation & Research Center for the Giant Panda, (CCRCGP) Wolong Nature Center, under the Department of Forestry.
Before construction, the Bifengxia base was a maiden forest with no power, no road and no housing. Dr. Tang Chunxiang, Assistant Director and Chief Veterinarian, described the base as a "blank paper, waiting for great events to occur."
In Chinese, Bifengxia means Green Peak Canyon, and is about 5 miles from Ya'an City in the Bifeng Gorge.
The Bifengxia base was established as a safeguard for the captive Giant Panda population at the Wolong Center. The threat of an outbreak of disease or infection was of great concern. If an epidemic was to occur among the captive Giant Pandas at the Wolong Center, it could destroy the entire population. Splitting the captive Giant Pandas of Wolong into two separate populations was planned to prevent this from occurring. In addition, Wolong was becoming crowded and more space was needed for the Giant pandas.
Bifengxia was planned to house mostly sub-adults not yet in the breeding program and senior pandas, too old for breeding. However, a small breeding area was constructed in addition to the hospital.
Bifengxia has more land so the Giant Pandas are spread over several different areas: Leopard Mountain, New Leopard Mountain, Bai Xiong Ping, Bi Tang (quarantine area), the Kindergarten and nursery, breeding center, Research Center and Hospital and Xiou Xi Tian, the restaurant/hostel. The enclosures are large with indoor and outdoor areas.
After the Earthquake of May 2008
As the earthquake showed, planning for a second center was an excellent decision.
40 Giant Pandas were evacuated to the Bifengxia base from Wolong following the earthquake. Workers began construction of 16 temporary pens and a kindergarten for young Giant Pandas. Twenty pens were completed by mid-October for those displaced by the earthquake. Since the enclosures were large, many could be divided in half to accommodate the new arrivals.
A breeding center with 14 enclosures was quickly constructed. Each enclosure has a camera system and is monitored in a control room by staff. Pandas International provided several of these cameras.
Currently there are 58 total enclosures at Bifengxia.
NOTE: There is also a Bifengxia Zoo on the way to the panda center that houses other animals but it is totally separate.