project review

Panda immigration and all in one overalls!

Review submitted by Carly Howes
Review date 13 Aug 2018

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I arrived in Chengdu and a lovely Chinese lady (Sophia) collected me and we went in a taxi to the hostel I would be staying in for the next few days! She spoke very good English and was good company too! At dinner we both laughed at my (extremely bad) chopstick attempts and we talked a lot about the differences between our cultures which was interesting. She really put me at ease and I felt a lot more relaxed about my time in China after talking to her. The next day she showed me around Chengdu city which I really enjoyed – especially as it helped me to get used to China a bit more before being taken and left at the panda centre for 4 weeks.

When I arrived at the centre I was shown to my room straight away. It was freezing cold due to no heating but it was comfortable and spacious with two single beds and I was given a small portable heater to try and warm the room up and electric blankets for the beds are provided luckily! The en suite was typically Chinese with a squat toilet and a shower head above it. If you wanted warm water for a shower you needed to plug it in for 45mins-1hour before you can use it! Although not the same as British standards I found I got used to these ‘quirks’ very quickly and they became a way of life!

After being shown around the centre where I would be working, and given my uniform (an all in one brown overall!) and locker, we ate lunch. Sophia arranged for me to have as plain food as possible which I really appreciated, because my stomach doesn’t really agree with spicy food! The family at the hostel were very kind and helpful and tried their best to understand English and make your stay as happy as possible. They also helped to organise trips at the weekend using their mini-buses to visit local sights of interest such as the giant Buddha in Leshan or just to go shopping in a nearby town.  The area the panda centre and hostel are in was massive and beautiful and there were lots of different sections and walks you could look around when you aren’t working during the day or at weekends.

The daily routine at the centre consisted of a 7:30am breakfast (which could be egg fried rice, noodles, dumplings etc) at the hostel and then a walk to the panda enclosure for an 8am start. First of all the panda enclosures were cleaned (depending on the weather and numbers of pandas you were caring for each day this could take between 1 and 3 hours!). There were 6 feeding sessions each day with a break in between in which I chose to either go on the internet or watch the baby pandas in the kindergarten playing! Lunch was at 12pm and work resumed in the afternoon at 2pm for a few hours.

In the area where I worked there were 6 pandas (5 females and 1 male) and they all have lovely big enclosures each with a ''mini mountain'' and trees to climb and a pool to bathe in during the hot summer! They seemed very happy and used to life here which is great to see! To see my first panda in real life was amazing... they seemed so big and docile with HUGE paws and they love to just eat and eat and eat!

I learnt so much at the centre and my keeper tried his best to speak English and teach me more about everything I was seeing and doing including training the pandas to react to commands, weighing them, giving injections/taking blood samples to check their health, and general everyday feeding and cleaning. I also got to be involved with an American-born panda being released into a new enclosure in the centre. There was a massive press conference including red carpets, celebratory feasts and speeches from the local mayors!! I absolutely loved my time at the centre and was very sad to leave!

Find out more about the China Panda Breeding Centre project