And now…The Pandas of Old Leopard Mountain and the Overseas Born Area

China, November 2013 - Travel Notes After leaving White Bear Plains, we made our way over to Old Leopard Mountain, which is also known as the Overseas Born pandas area (although pandas who are not overseas born still reside in the area).  The visit to this area introduced us to Lin Bing (just a couple of days out of quarantine), Fu Wa, Shu Qin, Yuan Yuan, Wu Gang, Le Sheng, and Yao Xin. Lin Bing was born on 27 May 2009 at the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand to Lin Hui and Chuang Chuan.  She was the first giant panda born in Thailand (they are expecting another any day).  Lin Bing had just recently been returned from Thailand when we visited Bifengxia.  In fact, she had only been out of quarantine and in her new enclosure for a few days when we arrived.  The famous panda, known as Lin Ping in Thailand where she was born, has been returned to the base to find a mate.  During our visit, Lin Bing was very active and appeared to have acclimated well to her new home.  We featured an adopter's story about Lin Bing a few weeks ago. Fu Wa was born on 23 August 2006.  His mother is Long Xin and his father is Lu Lu.  Fu Wa was one of 8 pandas chosen to represent Wolong at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.  After the Olympics, he was sent to live in Wenling before returning to Bifengxia. In June 2012, it was announced that Fu Wa would be one of two pandas chosen to go to Malaysia as part of the 10-year giant panda loan agreement.  His departure date is yet to be determined as the new exhibit is being completed in Malaysia.  He happily posed for us as he munched on his bamboo. Shu Qin was born 26 August 2009 to Ying Ying and Lu Lu.  Both of her parents are wild born.  She's a big girl and has her Daddy's eye patches. Wu Gang is a male panda rescued from near Baoxing around May 2000.  He has fathered a number [...]

Volunteer Story featured in The Virginian Pilot

Lucy Sherrill volunteered at the Bifengxia Panda Base in September of this year.  Her travel story was featured in the Virginian Pilot Newspaper. The text reads:  China offers many amazing sights, and I will enthusiastically discuss the Great Wall, the terra-cotta army and many others.  But getting the chance to work with the pandas at the Bifengxia Panda Center, run by Pandas International, is a memory I will always cherish.  We cleaned their enclosures and fed them bamboo, panda bread, carrots and apples.  We worked so closely that I now can say I have touched a panda paw.  And it didn't take long to become aware of the unique personality of each animal. Thank you, Lucy, for sharing your volunteer story.  While PI does not run the Panda Center or the volunteer program, we support everything the center does and have participated in the volunteer program numerous times.  Our director, Suzanne Braden, was on the tour with Lucy's group.

Next Stop – Panda Kindergarten

China, November 2013 - Travel Notes After our visit with the bears at the Old Breeding Center, we moved down the hill to the Panda Kindergarten.  Who doesn't love watching the panda cubs?  During our visit there were only two cubs in the Kindergarten with the other four 2012 cubs having just moved to Dujiangyan (I promise, we'll feature those little ones too).   Zheng Zheng and Yi Ran put on quite the show for us. Zheng Zheng is the slightly larger of the two and is quite the acrobat (see video below).  He was the first CCRCGP cub to be born in 2012, on July 11, 2012.  He is the elder twin of Xi Mei and Lu Lu and the great-grandson of Pan Pan. Yi Ran is the smaller of the two, but don't let that size fool you!  When we were watching, Yi Ran finished her milk in record time and went after Zheng Zheng's - pushing him out of the way to get to it!  Yi Ran, affectionately called "Dot" thanks to the tell-tale black dot on her forehead, is the elder twin of Shui Xiu.  Born on July 24, 2012, she has the distinction of having parents that are both wild born.  Yi Ran's mother was rescued from Beichuan on 22 March 2008.  She was injured in the wild and lost her front left paw.  Her father is Yi Bao, who was rescued as a baby in December 2006 from Baoxing. While he wasn't in the kindergarten while we were visiting in November, we just learned that Jia Jia has moved back to the kindergarten with Zheng Zheng and Yi Ran.   We wrote about Jia Jia, Hua Mei's 9th cub, in our Green Lake post.

The Pandas of Green Lake – Bifengxia

China, November 2013 - Travel Notes Making our way down from the New Breeding Center, our tour took us, next, to the area of the Bifengxia Panda Base known as Green Lake.  The origin of the name became quite obvious when we reached the bridge. The Green Lake Area is smaller than the new breeding center with only 4 enclosures.  Each, as with all enclosures at the base, with indoor and outdoor areas for the bears.  In residence at Green Lake when we visited were three pandas:  Hui Hui, Shen Bin, and Jia Jia. Hui Hui was eating when we arrived but came over to greet us.  I pulled out my camera, thinking I could grab a quick shot and not disturb him, but as soon as he saw it he came over and posed for us! You may recognize Shen Bin if you've watched the Explore.org cameras in the past.  She was on camera for many months last year.  During our visit, she was VERY active.   Wandering around her enclosure, grabbing a quick bite on the run. I'm not sure she stopped moving once while we were there. Last, but far from least, little Jia Jia.  Don't let his diminutive size fool you, this little bear is has a willful and mischievous streak to him!  Jia Jia was separated from the other cubs in the kindergarten because of his small stature, but he definitely has a large personality.  He entertained us by climbing up his cage, playing with his water bowl, doing somersaults and trying to close the door on us.  He's rambunctious and full of energy! And there they are, the fantastic pandas of the Green Lake area.

The Ladies (and Gentlemen) of the New Breeding Center

China, November 2013 – Travel Notes If you read our post about Foster Moms, you may have already guessed that we spent quite a bit of time during our first day tour at the New Breeding Center.  The center is actually quite large with just over a dozen enclosures, each with indoor and outdoor areas for the pandas.  The onsite keepers office is equipped with monitors to keep a virtual eye on the pandas in addition to the staff seeing to their physical needs.  The monitors are especially helpful during birthing and the earliest days after cubs are born, when mothers are reluctant to “share” their cubs with the keepers and vets.

Foster Moms at BFX

One of our first stops on our initial tour of the Bifengxia Panda Base in November was the New Breeding Center.  Visiting this area of the base was a distinct highlight since we were able to see the moms with their cubs .  I think we can all agree that there is always something very touching about seeing a mom (of any species) caring for her baby.  That maternal bond is so special.  As we toured the New Breeding Center, we were fortunate to see five moms with cubs (one with TWO cubs, but I'm jumping ahead).  What we didn't realize during that first walk through, however, was that what we were seeing was even more special than we first thought! The New Breeding Center is an area of the Panda Base set apart from the other areas with the primary purpose of breeding pandas and rearing cubs.  Breeding at BFX is strategically planned to ensure that the gene pool of the giant panda remains diversified and strong.  There are a number of pandas at the breeding center currently, five of which are rearing cubs.  While Na Na and Ge Ge (above with cub) were happily caring for their cubs (each gave birth to a single cub this year), we would soon find out that something more was happening with the other three moms. Chet's Discovery On our second day at Bifengxia, we met up with Chet Chin, one of PI's adoptors, supporters, and a long time friend.  Chet had arrived early for the Hug My Baby event so that she could share some extra time with her adopted panda, Feng Yi, and her 2013 cub (who Chet has also adopted).  After spending a good portion of the day photographing Feng Yi and "her" cub, Chet was quite shocked to learn from one of the senior staff that the cub with Feng Yi was, in fact, not hers!    Thanks to Chet's diligent follow-up with keepers and staff, we were able to sort through the confusion and get to the root of not only a beautiful story, but also a new [...]

The Bifengxia Panda Base – An Introduction

China, November 2013 - Travel Notes Day three of our travels took us to our ultimate destination, The Bifengxia Panda Center in Ya'an, Sichuan Province, China.  In many ways, walking through the gate at BFX was a bit like "coming home" after years of reading and writing about it, seeing photographs, and hearing first hand accounts from others who had made the trip.  The reality of the Panda Base, however, was far grander and more awe inspiring than all of the images in our heads. But First, A Bit of History Construction of the BFX Panda Center began in October of 2002, when it became obvious that a second center, in addition to the existing center at Wolong, was required to manage the growing captive panda population and ensure their continued health and welfare. Before construction, the Bifengxia base was maiden forest with no power, no roads, and very little access.  Dr. Tang Chunxiang, Assistant Director and Chief Veterinarian, described the base as a “blank paper, waiting for great events to occur.” Since Wolong was primarily a breeding center, the BFX center was originally constructed to house mostly sub-adults (not yet in the breeding program) and senior pandas (too old for breeding).   With foresight, however, a small breeding area was constructed in addition to a hospital.  The center opened in 2004. Before the earthquake of 2008, Bifengxia was still a small Panda Center with only 46 staff members. After the earthquake, everything changed. Following the devastating quake, fourty Giant Pandas were evacuated to the Bifengxia base from Wolong. Workers began construction of temporary pens, a new breeding center, and a kindergarten for young Giant Pandas.  Currently there are 58 total enclosures at Bifengxia and the staff has grown to about 144 members. The Quick Tour The drive from Ya'an city to the Bifengxia base is not for the faint of heart.  The 30-minute trek from the city takes you along a tightly winding road into the mountainous area known as the Bifengxia Gorge. As you ascend the mountain, it is obvious why this area was chosen for the Panda Center.  [...]