These two panda cubs were very rambunctious! Adults are mostly slow moving and have limited social interactions - but cubs are very playful. I watched these two wrestle and play with each other for half an hour.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding: the Red Pandas live in the trees of the Base for much of their time and can be hard to see. So the best time to view them here is at feeding time, when they come down to party!
The Peoples Park in Chengdu was a window into the life of ordinary Chinese in this part of the country. Beautifully tended gardens edged by covered porticoes, meandering paths and water features...these were the backdrops to all kinds of social interactions.
The Peoples Park, Chengdu. Concerned parents of young people of marriageable age come to this part of the park to lay out their kids romantic resumes for other parents to make the connection. Online dating has nothing on this!
Welcome to my board of photos from my recent trip to China. There are more photos of the Great Wall of China further down on this board, but I thought we should start with China's cuddly stars - the pandas of Chengdu.
Giant pandas are impossibly cute. I've admired them in their occasional appearances at Western zoos. Now I had the opportunity to see them in their native China at the research base that has been more successful than any other in bringing back this endangered, lovable creature from the very brink of extinction. The pandas did not disappoint!
The entrance to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This world class facility is 40 minutes drive north of the city of Chengdu in central China. Their website is www.panda.org.cn. There are over 160 giant pandas here - a sizable proportion of the world population, which is believed to be only around 2,000.
As you can see: I was like a kid in a candy store. The grin never left my face the whole time I was there. I saw a large number of pandas - nearly two dozen - including some youngsters out for their first experience of The Great Outdoors. The facility is very visitor friendly and there are many educative highlights, including one that delves into panda love and how the Centre has become so successful at breeding giant pandas.
Who needs a tray when you have a tummy as big as this? Pandas are incredibly fussy about what they eat: just a few species of bamboo shoots are acceptable. Though what they lack in variety, they make up for in quantity, as they eat 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo shoots daily.
Pandas have a very poorly nutritious diet - bamboo leaves are tough for them to digest, but they don't eat anything else. This is why pandas seem so lethargic for much of the time. These two were an exception and enjoyed a gentle wrestling match for quite some time.
For the visitor the experience is entrancing. I was childishly happy to see so many pandas up close and personal in their natural environment. When a nursery of seven baby pandas were brought outside from their den for the first time, my happiness was complete.
As I was standing there in Chengdu with a soppy smile on my face, the giant panda was officially being taken off the 'endangered' list and upgraded to 'vulnerable'. A heart-warming news story that I was privileged to see unfolding with my own eyes.