Volunteer | Travel

Volunteering at The Panda Centers in China

The volunteer program at Bifengxia has been temporarily suspended due to construction at the base.  The volunteer program at Dujiangyan is currently open to the public.  You can e-mail the Dujiangyan panda base at pandaeducatecenter@163.com.

Few things are as delightful as observing the wonders of the Giant Panda first hand.  Even though Pandas International is located in Littleton, Colorado (a suburb of Denver) and not in China, we can offer experience-based advice on volunteering opportunities with the pandas for the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Pandas (CCRCGP).  The Bifengxia Panda Center is currently NOT accepting visitors.  The Bifengxia Panda Center is still open to the public to see the Pandas and the Dujiangyan Panda Center is open for Volunteering.

If you are interested in volunteering, you will need to arrange your own travel to and from China and to and from the Dujiangyan Panda Center. The travel agencies listed below offer assistance in arranging both travel and lodging.  Once you have travel arranged, you may contact the Dujiangyan Panda Center with the dates you plan on volunteering at the reserve. The volunteer program can be reached at pandaeducatecenter@163.com. Please do NOT ask Pandas International to book your volunteer experience as we are not located in China and cannot help.

Depending on the time of year and the tour you select, volunteer service will cost approximately $100 per day (700RMB).  In order to volunteer,  you should be in generally good health and the Panda Center requires you to have a medical form filled out prior to arriving. The Dujiangyan Panda Center can e-mail you the medical form.   Children under the age of 10 are generally not allowed to volunteer.

Remember if you are hurt or injured, neither the Panda Center nor Pandas International is responsible/liable. We suggest you consider travel insurance.

Volunteer Tasks

There are many tasks that are routinely performed by volunteers at the Panda Center.  After a short training/orientation, volunteer service might include, but not be limited to:

  • Cleaning panda areas and enclosures
  • Cleaning general areas of the Panda Centers
  • Preparing food for the pandas such as carrots, apples, panda bread and their nutritional biscuits
  • Carrying lots of bamboo
  • Sometimes you might be able to help collect behavioral data

Guidelines for Volunteers

The following should be kept in mind as you enjoy the unique experience of spending some “up close and personal time” with the pandas and their caretakers:

  • As your volunteer time will include a lot of manual labor in close proximity to the Pandas, be sure to wear appropriate footwear for both comfort and protection. We recommend closed-toed hard leather shoes.
  • No matter how “adorable” they look, the animals are not pets or toys and should not be treated as such. They have sharp teeth, strong jaws and powerful claws so even a playful interaction can cause harm.
  • Volunteers need to be prepared for relatively hard work as they assist the caretakers in their daily chores.
  • Since pandas spend about 14 hours a day eating and don’t efficiently digest their food, expect a lot of “shoveling” as part of your volunteering.
  • You’ll also be called on to help carry bamboo to the pandas, and to sweep up the old bamboo.
  • Expect to spend some time chopping up various foods for the pandas. If you are helping to feed them, remember pandas have strong jaws so be sure to remove your hand from what you’re feeding them before they take a bite!
  • If you participate in photographing in the Kindergarten, be especially aware of behaviors that could be a risk to your safety and the Giant Pandas. Following safety protocol is key to having a wonderful and safe experience.
  • Remember that new, young Chinese caretakers will have a cultural prohibition against telling a foreign tourist to stop something they shouldn’t be doing.
  • Do NOT tip the keepers or anyone else at the Panda Base. No government employees can accept cash and if they do they can lose their jobs. You are more than welcome to invite them to lunch, give t-shirts, chocolate, or coffee.
  • Keeping these things in mind will help assure a problem free, unforgettable experience.
  • “Playing with Pandas” is prohibited. While you might have seen photos on the internet of tourists playing with pandas this practice is no longer allowed due to diseases, illnesses and infections that the pandas could acquire from humans.

To arrange a volunteering opportunity please e-mail the Dujiangyan Panda reserve at pandaeducatecenter@163.com

You will also have plenty of time to watch and photograph the Pandas each day you volunteer.

Travel Agencies

The  travel agencies listed below  have arrangements with selected Panda Centers to provide Panda tours and/or opportunities to volunteer.  Their experience and itineraries may vary.

Remember, donations made to the Panda Centers directly are not tax deductible according to the Internal Revenue Service. So, if you wish to adopt a panda, pick your panda while in China then adopt it through Pandas International when you return to the US. All of the money is still sent to the Wolong or Bifengxia Panda Club, and you will receive a legal tax deduction.

  • Kim’s World Travel specializes in travel to the Orient and works with Mr. Peter Wood of West China Adventures for Eco tours to the panda reserves. Kim can provide both individualized trips with volunteer work or fully escorted trips including all the panda centers and other destinations in China such as Beijing, Chengdu, Wolong, Xian, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Guilin and Hong Kong. English speaking guides are always provided. Kim’s World Travel makes a donation from each tour to Pandas International as well as an annual donation. You can contact Kim by email at kim@kimsworldtravel.com or call Kim’s World Travel: 303-388-3813.
  • Access China Tours (ACT) is a leading tour company specialized in arranging high quality tours and trips to China and its neighboring regions.View information at http://accesschinatours.com or contact them at info@accesschinatours.com.
  • West China Adventure. If you are already in China or wish a personalized tour or volunteer experience, please contact Mr. Peter Wood at West China Adventures. Mr. Wood has excellent contacts and relations with the Panda Center in Chengdu, the Bifengxia Panda Center and the primer center for the giant pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve. Peter can customize any type of trip you would like. Please see www.westchinaadventures.com or email info@westchinaadventures.com

Pandas International does not provide travel services, is not financially affiliated with any travel agency, makes no recommendations concerning the agencies, and does not assume any responsibilities regarding their services.

Prospective travel agencies may contact info@pandasinternational.org for information.

Note: Credit cards may not be accepted in all parts of China. Wire transfers are sometimes necessary for payment.