Amazing Kids! Magazine

Don’t Behave Like a Giant Panda

By Samyuktha Kumar, Contributing Writer

 

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When we decided to take a short trip to China during spring break, the first thing I wanted to do was to see a panda. So along with few other places we went to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province which has the world’s first ever Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

On the first day, we set off around 8:30 in the morning as we were informed it was Panda’s feeding time. A huge map welcomed us at the research base, which displayed the entire100 hectare panda world, helping us to decide our itinerary. Black and white trams with friendly volunteers waited in front of a beautiful waterfall. The pleasant weather set the mood and the tram started ferrying us through the lush green bamboo woods to meet the animal celebrities in their enclosures.

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Our first stop we chose was at “Adult Panda Enclosure.” We were the only ones at that enclosure which was absolutely silent except a few birds chirping. I just roved my big eyes through my spectacles combing through the enclosure. There was a faint “crunch crunch crunch” from behind a huge willow tree. I just lost my heart when I saw a big adorable black and white bear sitting reclusively munching it’s delicious bamboo shoot from behind the tree, showing its cute rounded back. There was another one with puffy cheeks, feasting in roman style lying on its sides with its head rested on one hand and the other hand feeding from above and…one more amidst the bamboo shoots holding the shoots like chop sticks, least bothered to look around. No wonder they spend 60% of their day eating, as each of them need 25-40 pounds of bamboo shoots in a day to get their nutrients. It was hard to believe that Pandas had been carnivorous, and at some point in their evolution, they adapted to eating only plants and only bamboo – but retain a solitary nature unlike other herbivores.

Next came the “Cub Enclosure” where the mother and the cubs were playing, reminding me of Tom and Jerry cartoons, but in a very slow motion! I couldn’t stop laughing when one of our Chinese friends explained how the Giant Pandas in the wild mischievously get into mountain dweller’s homes and play with kitchen pots and pans and then discard them in the woods later on. They’ve also been known to befriend domestic animals such as a sheep or pig and sleep and eat together with them.

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Our next stop was “Moon Light Nursery.” The panda cubs are the world’s smallest considering their mother’s size. Newborn cubs are born pink, with almost no hair, blind and weigh only 4 to 8 ounces and are about 6 to 8 inches long, about the size of a stick of butter! This was one of the reasons they are highly endangered as their survival is difficult in the wild. In captivity the cubs are incubated, hand reared and fed by the caretakers with milk, apple and special panda bread, which you are allowed to taste in the “Panda Kitchen.” At about one week, they begin to develop their distinctive black and white markings and at about 5 to 7 weeks, they start to open their eyes.

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The highlight of the tour was the “Panda Cinema.” It unveiled many mysteries of the Giant Pandas. I was amazed when I heard Giant Pandas are believed to have existed since the Pleistocene age, approximately 3 million years ago.

When we came out, almost all the pandas were sleeping in all kinds of funny postures reminding me of Po in Kung Fu Panda, whose character I think is definitely not an exaggeration. They are thorough entertainers, eating, and sleeping most of their time, playing very little. So much so that the pampered children in China are referred as Giant Pandas!
Chengdu is surely a place where the world goes to for giant pandas. I wish these “Living Fossils” survive through different ages to come.