International Travel News
My letter to the Editor
Framing Courtesy of Barbi-Jo Creations
Looking into the upturned face of this lovely fifteen year old female Panda at feeding time as we enter the cage area with the attendant was a sheer delight. She is called #20. Not sure why she never got a Chinese name like the others in this Giant Panda Reserve at Wolong, China.
She could sense that we were new, sniffing out our scent. Her head, a gorgeous white, with those distinctive black ears. There we were just two feet away as she peered at us intently. She was curious about us since most visitors only get to see her from afar.
But in our role as “Volunteers”, we came along with the attendant into her inner cage to give her the morning menu of panda cake. These cakes made up in the food preparation house of the Panda Preserve consist of chopped bamboo, wheat flour, and rice. Before going to the cage we helped by breaking the biscuit shaped cake in half, pouring packs of vitamins inside and then shaping them back together.
With these in hand we were next to the cage with #20. The young female Chinese attendant, Miss Lin, pushed the first cake through the cage, and she began eating. Later cakes were fed by hand, by the attendant, and then by us. A real delight.
But volunteering is not just feeding, it also involved cleaning the cages. We could see the cage littered with the Panda scat, which consisted of largely undigested bamboo. Given a scoop and a reed broom, WE set about the effort to clean the cage.
Beside #20, we, and the attendant, were also responsible for Lu Lu, a five year old male, and Le Shing a four year old female.
Fresh bamboo, from the stock provided by the local farmers had to be dragged into the outdoor runs, as well as the discarded bamboo from yesterday’s lunching had to be discarded. The Panda sits to eat bamboo. It can grab the stalk in it hand, hold it between the five fingers and its special “thumb” which makes it possible to grab things very tightly. Much of the day is spent in this sitting position stripping the bamboo and eating the inner portion.
Our off time was spent watching the panda. The nursery at the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve has the ones who have been born within the last year, and have been taken from their mothers, so the mothers are ready to conceive again as part of their scientific breeding program. This group of about a half dozen baby pandas, spend the day on an elevated platform sleeping and playing. A constant motion and a delight to watch. We get to watch them from a distance, but for an extra fee can get to hold one of the 50 lb young ones. It is brought to you and placed on your lab long enough for the camera to record the event
The juveniles, which are still before reproductive age can live together peaceably, have a larger outdoor run, can climb trees, and are a delight for photographers.
Our Photos of this experience, with their lovely faces and cuddly bodies, are on my web site at:
This adventure was completed in June 2005. All American tourist travel in China is arranged by CITS (China International Tourist Service) or one of the newer groups. To visit the Wolong Reserve, and participate in the volunteer program, arrangements can be made through the CITS office in Chengdu. www.chinagiantpanda.com
Expect the three day trip from Chengdu to Wolong Reserve to cost about $500. A two week trip to China can be done for $3,000 to $5,000 including air fare, depending on your choices.
People interested in a similar Panda adventure, provided by a US based operator can contact:
Natural Habit 2945 Center Green Ct, Boulder, CO, USA 80301 1-800-543-8917 www.nathab.com
Ben Bressler, of Natural Habitat, is an expert on Wildlife Tours, has a Panda tour on his list, and if asked could make the special arrangements for you to be a “volunteer”.
Marlene E Roeseler and Galen R Frysinger
(awaiting publication by ITN)
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