With the natural habitat of China’s most iconic creature disappearing by the day, part of the national government’s recent preservation efforts has has been to set up the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base here in Chengdu. The base, which is home to more than 50 giant pandas, as well as rare red pandas, is not only a symbol of Chengdu, but it’s an important part of the internationally renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site that should not be missed.
It’s best to go during the early morning hours, right when the gates open, since that’s the time when the animals are most active. Feeding takes place at 9:30, and around this time you’ll spot the pandas playing games with each other, climbing trees, and generally goofing off like preschoolers, but after noon they tend to just lie around lethargically and sleep. There are also numerous beautiful wild peacocks running (and squacking) around. If you want to escape them for a bit, you can head into the panda living quarters and pay ¥600 (US$100) for a picture of you and a panda.
When spring is in the air, love is in the air. March to May is mating season for the pandas, and if the base has been successful in getting these bashful animals to breed, baby pandas may be viewable in the fall. If you’re around during this part of the year it’s essential to see if there are any newborns feeding on baby bottles.