I have been looking forward to posting about this for weeks!! Because of China’s ‘Great Fire Wall’ I hadn’t been able to get on to any social media or here for the entire 3 weeks we travelled there. In some ways it was a nice escape from my phone and laptop but it was also really frustrating finding it near impossible to email my parents and show my friends what we were up to. However now we have the world of internet at our fingertips again I can finally update you all with what we got up to…
And where better to start than China’s giant pandas!!!
When we were in Chengdu we got to visit their giant panda sanctuary where they help breed and nurture both giant pandas and red pandas, eventually releasing them into the wild.
The sanctuary itself is huge and each panda has an enormous space both indoors and outdoors to live. There are now sadly less than 2000 giant pandas left in the wild. This is mainly due to the fact that they are one of the world’s fussiest animals when it comes to food and breeding. Many millions of years ago pandas used to eat meat however as they have evolved they now mainly eat bamboo and because they get through over 40kgs of bamboo each per day it is understandable that their natural habitat is dwindling (also humans haven’t helped over the centuries of course by using the land for other means). Most pandas also live a lonely life, not needing a partner and very often not wanting one. There is only a short space of time each year when a female panda can conceive so not only do they have to find a male (or vice versa) in this time slot but they also need to find the ‘right’ male. Many female and male pandas cannot mate so even at the sanctuary it’s been incredibly hard to get them to breed, resulting in many artificial inseminations.
This all sounds very sad and the thought of pandas becoming extinct doesn’t bear thinking about as they’re such beautiful, gentle creatures. However when we were told that they have been on the planet for over 8 million years (from the time of sabre tooth tigers!!) and that most species only have a legacy of 6 million years, it’s understandable that their numbers have dwindled and in fact they should have become extinct many, many years ago.
Nevertheless they’ve now become almost a national symbol of China and they’re rarity has made them even more special so it’s fantastic to see the sanctuary and it’s program flourishing and keeping the panda alive!