The first ladies of China and the United States recently revealed the name of the new panda cub born in the Washington National Zoo. Bei Bei (pronounced “Bay Bay”) means precious treasure in Chinese. I still cannot get over how small panda cubs are in proportion to the size of their mother. The newborn panda cubs are about 1/900th the size of the giant panda. That’s teeny-tiny!
I was lucky enough to visit the Giant Panda Breeding and Research base in Chengdu, China earlier this year. I didn’t get to see any of these little creatures being born but I did get to see the older ones lounging around and the younger ones causing mischief. My first reaction to the older ones was “Oh, they’re not very white.” What was I expecting? Had I not seen pandas at a zoo before? Had I not registered their off-white fur on the television or in my children’s National Geographic magazines? I think I had some pre-conceptions that they would be brilliant white and black. Maybe it was the panda memorabilia in every airport and market that was etched into my brain. Or movies like Kung Fu Panda. Then I wondered if they got bored just laying around chewing bamboo. Seriously, these bears can eat! They consume between 12-28kg of bamboo a day to get the nutritional value they need. No wonder they just lay around all day!
The highlight of the reserve was seeing the little rambunctious pandas at play. We watched them play rough and tumble with each other. We watched them annoy the little one up in the tree who was trying to get some rest. We watched them climb up the bamboo poles and then slide back down cleaning up any panda underneath them!
If you get a chance to visit China then put Chengdu on your itinerary. It’s great to see the efforts the research centre is putting into saving this endangered species with approximately less than 2,000 species left in the world. Which really does make them a “precious treasure”.
For more information go to: Chengdu Panda Reserve.