The more I travel, the less I like zoos. The magic of seeing animals in cages is gone, especially when said cages are far too small for the megafauna they're housing. So it was with much reservation that I decided to visit the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China. I just couldn't resist the draw of so many pandas in one place.
Luckily, from the moment I stepped inside, I could tell this was more than just a zoo. There were lakes and gardens and wide walkways, lined with bamboo. There was even a museum that informed visitors of the history of giant pandas and of conservation efforts. But of course, I had come to see the pandas. What were they like?
I got to the park early in the morning, and the pandas were busy munching away at bamboo. Once upon a time they ate meat, but for some reason they switched to a bamboo diet. Unfortunately, bamboo doesn't contain many nutrients, so the pandas spend almost every waking hour eating. Watching them for five minutes provided me with a week's worth of entertainment.
The park also had red pandas. They appeared almost as vicious as their raccoon cousins. In fact, one of them had even gotten a large chunk of its tail bitten off. The scariest part was that they were allowed to roam freely, among the human visitors. No joke.
I hope you enjoy these photos and a short video of the park. To see my complete photo set, you can click here. Have you ever seen a real, live panda? Where were you? Leave your comments below.