This is China Series

Pandaland. Helping giant panda cubs return to the wild

  • The Giant Panda is China’s national symbol
  • The Government built conservation centres to save the panda from extinction
  • Bifengxia Panda Centre successfully breeds pandas and returns them to the wild
  • Panda centres also bring lots of tourist and their money to the country
  • Pandas can be leased to foreign zoos but never sold!

The Giant Panda, a.k.a. “bamboo bear”, is the rarest bear on the planet and only lives in China. It has walked the Earth for more than 8 million years, but until recently, it was on the brink of extinction because of human activity as well as natural factors. The Chinese Government stepped in to save the adorable panda. It created panda conservation and breeding centres, where the cute animals are cared for and encouraged to breed.

Related: How China is saving the giant panda from extinction

Bifengxia Panda is one such Centre in Sichuan Province. Normally, pandas give birth to two cubs but they only ever care for one of them while, panda dads pay no attention to their young at all. The highly trained staff at Bifengxia rescues the abandoned cubs. They adopt every second baby panda and make sure it grows happy and healthy. It may seem that all the cute and cuddly panda ever wants is bamboo and lots of sleep, but in fact they are a real handful to care for. The centre’s dedicated workers have to feed them the right kind of bamboo, encourage them to exercise and even dress up as giant pandas themselves to help them prepare for their return to the wild. Elderly pandas have their own “retirement home” where they are fed on special apple pies cooked by volunteers. 

Related: Russia's Orphan Bear Rescue Centre prepares bears for the perils of the wild

Thanks to all that hard work, the centre’s conservation specialists have enlarged the panda population by several dozen. Some have successfully been returned to the wild, while others remain at the centre where they live a carefree life and delight international tourists. Some Chinese pandas are loaned on lease to zoos in other countries, but the bears always go home, as do any cubs that are born overseas.