Volunteer/Travel

Mount Emei Xianzhi Zhujian Ecological Park

China, November 2013 - Travel Notes After our visit with Mei Lan, we made our way toward Leshan ("Happy Mountain") - about 75 miles from Chengdu.  Our destination, of course, was the Mount Emei Xianxhi Zhujian Ecological Park  (峨眉山仙芝竹尖生态园). The Mount Emei Xianzhi Zhujian Ecological Park is a 300-plus-acre tourist park located in the eastern outskirts of the city of Emei, about 5 miles from the city center.  The park is primarily a showcase for local tea with a breathtaking teahouse and a local production facility onsite, but tucked away within the park there is also a dinosaur museum and an area named " Panda Hall " - we of course headed that direction! The pathways are lined with a number of "informational panels" about pandas and their history.  Whimsical panda statues can be found throughout the park (along with an occasional dinosaur).  We may have taken a wrong turn or three on our way to find the pandas, but the grounds are gorgeous so the detours were definitely not a bad thing. The Panda exhibit was built in 2011 and consists of two main buildings.  The first building has both indoor and outdoor enclosures designed for two pandas.  The second building includes an additional outdoor/indoor enclosure and a panda-themed exhibition/educational area. The three indoor enclosures are huge, air-conditioned, and feature wooden enrichment structures, tire swings, bamboo "stands" and a watering hole (thank you Jerome Pouille - www.pandas.fr - for the photo).  On the day we visited, all three pandas were outside enjoying the cool weather so we didn't get to see them enjoying these areas. The Pandas After all of our detours, we had finally made our way to the Pandas. In the first enclosure, we met Xiang Lin.  Born in 2009 to parents Hai Zi and Ling Ling, Xiang Lin was wandering around his yard when we first arrived.  He must have borrowed an invisibility cloak  soon after, however, since he managed to hide completely within his enclosure for almost the entire time we visited.  We did manage to catch this quick shot of him before he disappeared [...]

Panda Adopter Chet Chin in the News

While in China for the Hug My Baby event in November, Chet Chin happened to run into a Malaysian reporter/photographer team at Bifengxia.  The team was following the Malaysian keepers as they work with Chinese keepers to prepare for the transfer of two pandas, Feng Yi and Fu Wa, to Malaysia in the new year. Imagine their surprise when they learned that Chet, who is from Malaysia, was the adopted mother of Feng Yi.  When they asked for an interview, Chet obliged.

Karen’s Volunteer Experience at Bifengxia

My volunteer job at the Bifengxia  Panda Center was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It began each day with a ride up through lush green mountains and valleys that evoked a mystical and intensely peaceful aura.  Upon arrival the first day I met the panda keeper under whom I would be working and received my coveralls and badge.  My assignments included cleaning the outdoor and indoor enclosures for three adult pandas and supplying fresh bamboo to them.  I also helped prepare carrots, apples, “panda bread” and tender bamboo shoots, which I fed to my pandas three times a day.  I was so impressed by their good manners, as they patiently waited to be fed, chewed and enjoyed each bite until the last bit was gone.  I sat quite close to their indoor enclosure, and all three stared gently and intently into my eyes.

Eric and Sachi Koide – A Wolong Travel Adventure

My daughter, Sachiye Koide, and I have just returned from our visit to the Wolong Panda Research Center and the Bifengxia Panda Research Center. We were at the Wolong Panda Research Center between July 8 and July 12, during the time that the floods and landslides were hitting the region. The following is a chronicle of our experiences there: My name is Sachi, and I am sixteen years old. This summer, I travelled to the Wolong Panda Center for a week during the beginning of a huge natural disaster. When I was asked to write this, I thought it would be a story of hiking up the mountain to observe wild pandas. In a way, it still is. This is also a story of surviving massive floods, landslides, and all the problems that come with that. Eric's Story: My daughter Sachi, age 16, is what one would call a Student Panda Conservationist. During the summer of 2012, she worked as a Student Conservation Intern at the Bifengxia Panda Center. This previous school year, she served as president of her high school’s conservation club which fundraised to adopt the panda Cai Tao through the Panda Adoption Program at Pandas International. This year, Sachi applied to and was accepted by the Panda Wilderness Survival and Release Project at the Wolong Panda Research Center to attend an educational session on their project. The educational session included instruction on the process of training pandas to survive in the wild and to be eased back into their natural environment by living in a series of successively more wild and natural habitats which replicate the panda’s natural environment. Sachi’s work schedule was to include dressing up in a panda costume to enter the semi-wild habitats to observe and monitor the semi-wild pandas’ behavior and assess their progress toward truly wild status upon which they could be released back out into their natural environment, thus replenishing the dwindling wild panda population. On July 8, we set out from Chengdu to drive up into the mountains to Wolong. On the road we were hit by torrential downpours which [...]

Cherie McLean

My daughter (18 yrs) and I were travelling in China in July 2012 for a month and volunteered at Bifengxia Panda Center for a day. It took us 2 hours by private car to get there from Chengdu and we spent the most wonderful day at the Centre. We looked after a Panda breeding enclosure with Ebu and Chengdu our pandas. We mucked out the outdoor area as well as their indoor sleeping and eating area. Break up the bamboo and replace it in the outdoor area. We got to cut up apples, carrots and “Panda cake” for their morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea and hand fed them with the trainer close by. What an amazing experience. Lots of photo opportunities. We ate lunch with all the employees and spent about an hour when the park was closed over lunch watching the baby pandas play in the Kindergarten enclosure! We would definitely go back for longer than a day next time! Thank you for making this day one we will never forget.

C. Paul Betteridge

“I went to Wolong as a volunteer in May. I just wanted to let you know that all the Pandas were well and happy. I cleaned out Soo Yee (My spelling.) and fell hopelessly in love with her. I am a 61 year old Englishman recovering from cancer and if anybody is thinking about going to Wolong (You should beg, borrow, steal or murder to get the chance to go.)  Everybody should make a list of 10 things to do before they are too old and a visit to Wolong should be very high on the list. P.S If you volunteer at Wolong, remember that on your last day, you have to return the overalls. It is hot work, but you should wear trousers under the overalls.

Chet Chin — The giant panda who didn’t make it, but left a legacy of love

When he was born, he made headlines around the world, not just because he was a giant panda cub, but because he was the first giant panda cub to be born with a harelip. Unfortunately, the external defect and various other internal health problems proved too much for his little body and he died soon after being born. Despite his very brief time here, he left a lasting impression and legacy, at least for me. He changed me and helped me to make a stronger commitment to the cause of the giant panda. At the time he was born, I’d been following giant pandas news for six years, ever since first discovering Hua Mei on the San Diego Zoo pandacam during her public debut at six months old. Mostly, it had been a “hobby” of collecting print literature about giant pandas, searching online for their pictures, participating in online discussions, and also purchasing panda-related items directly from the zoos that had panda exhibits. At the time he was born, I had been in a bit of a depression. But when I saw his picture, I knew I wanted to be a part of the love and the care that would help him overcome his health problems. I went to the Pandas International website to look up information about adopting a giant panda from Wolong. After various email exchanges with director Suzanne Braden, I received the good news that my application to adopt this little cub with the harelip had been approved. Sadly, within weeks, I received news that he’d passed away. (Note – it was only recently that I learned he died within 3 days of being born; due to the irregularity of news coming out of Wolong, we weren’t informed until almost a month later.) In her email telling me the sad news, Suzanne Braden told me he had a younger twin sister, would I like to transfer the adoption to her? My reply was an unhesitating yes. Fast forward to September 2007. I had come to Wolong Panda Reserve, on a 4-day volunteer trip that would allow me [...]

Rebecca & Richard Johnston – Our Summer Vacation

As frequently and most aptly stated by panda keepers at the San Diego, CA Zoo, I too have been having a love affair with the Giant Panda for some time now. Not since 1987 as in the case of the San Diego Zoo, but since 1999 when Hua Mei, born in San Diego of parents Bai Yun and Shi Shi, received the title of “first panda to be born and survive to adulthood in the U.S.” Subsequent to that momentous achievement, I have been following all the breeding efforts, births and other news worthy events on the websites of all four zoos in the U.S. that have the great privilege to work with such an admired and magical animal. The Panda web cams that each of the zoos maintain are a great window into the world of pandas. I watch the cams religiously and have followed the births and step by step growth of Mei Sheng and Su Lin in San Diego, Tai Shan in Washington, DC, the birth of Lun Lun’s first cub Mei Lan “Atlanta’s Beauty” and the most recent birth of Bai Yun’s fourth cub born in San Diego.” The Panda News updates that each of the websites offer is also a great way to track the milestones of breeding efforts and panda events. When folks ask me what it is I like so much about pandas, it is sometimes hard to describe. I believe that people are born with a love for animals; it is not something that can be learned or mimicked. Obviously, I have a great love of all animals but my love for pandas is more like a reverence. Their human-like behaviors especially with regard to the female’s maternal instincts have always fascinated me. To watch the relationship form between a very large and gentle mother and a very tiny delicate baby to me represents a bond that I have never witnessed in any other animal species. The antics displayed by young cubs is also quite amusing and those that love pandas can watch and be entertained by these small black and white [...]