Friday, December 7, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 23 - Chengdu

Day 23 – Chengdu
Friday December 7

The highlight of today’s activity was a visit to the Sichuan Panda Sanctuary. In Chinese the word for Giant Panda is Da Xiong(shung) Nao(niow). The panda is said to be the oldest living fossil, being more than 8 million years old. Keith is wondering about the alligator, little changed for 200 million years, and much more adaptable than the Panda. There are 56 sites set aside for panda sanctuaries in China. On Friday we left to visit the Sichuan Panda Sanctuary.

The Sichuan Panda Sanctuary is set in a bamboo forest of rolling hills about 50 miles outside of Chengdu, in the town of Wolong. There are about 20 pandas on view in their natural habitat. they range in age from 6 months to 25 years. We were able to view them eating, sleeping, playing and scratching, and performing other natural bodily functions. The sanctuary is a large natural preserve. This was one of Kathy's favorite places in China. The environment and setting are very pleasant. We both enjoyed walking around, although the walking was somewhat strenuous for us decadents.

Panda Sanctuary

Panda Eats Shoots and Leaves

Panda Hams for the Camera

We also saw a very informative film on the breeding of pandas. We learned that there are 4 major reasons why pandas are endangered and may become extinct:

>One- Their natural habitat is shrinking.
>Two- There is an acute food shortage of bamboo. An adult panda needs to consume about 44 pounds of bamboo per day. The Panda is a very picky eater, and will consume only select varieties, adding to the problem.
>Three- There is a very high infant mortality rate among pandas. First time mothers are not able to nurture correctly very often. The incidence of twins is also a problem as 1 cub will be abandoned by the mother.
>Four- Panda infertility. There are only 2 weeks every year when a female panda is able to conceive, and they sometimes aren't interested (headache, too tired, not in the mood, etc.). To help with this problem, the Chinese Government is showing the Pandas graphic films (Panda Porn), playing soft music, and feeding them wine. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

In addition to the black and white pandas at the sanctuary, we also viewed Red Pandas. Red Pandas are much smaller than their black and white counterparts. Their facial features resemble the American raccoon.

Red Panda

There was also a museum and gift shop at the sanctuary. Huge surprise.

After lunch we headed for the airport and our flight to Hong Kong. We arrived at out Hong Kong hotel about 9 pm, after what seemed like an interminable bus ride. The airport is located about an hour from downtown Hong Kong.

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