We spent one day volunteering at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda, where we learned a lot about these lovely animals. One thing was absolutely clear: pandas came very near to extinction as a result of deforestation (and not because they are vegetarian and lazy as Federico often says) but without the intervention of humans, they would have disappeared from this planet a long time ago.
Why are pandas so lazy?
Pandas are bears with the digestive system of carnivores that somehow evolved as vegetarians, eating primarily bamboo. Since the nutritional value of this plant is very low, pandas need to eat between 12 and 38 kg of bamboo per day. Can you imagine? They basically spend half day eating bamboo and the other half digesting it…
This explains why they are so lazy and sleepy all the time. The lack of energy might have an impact on their reproduction as they don’t mate very often and pregnancies are quite short.
Have you ever seen a baby panda? They are as small as a kitten and they are so fragile… Apparently the difference of weight between mum and cub is one of the biggest among all mammals. A giant panda mum is 900 times heavier than her newborn :O
Chances of survival of panda cubs in conservation centers is higher than in the wild.
What’s the job of volunteers at the Panda Conservation Center?
Well, we started our day by literally cleaning panda’s shit. We also cleaned all the mess they do while eating bamboo. After feeding a cute 3 years old panda with vegetables and “panda cake“, we visited the Conservation Center to meet other giant pandas, two black bears and some red pandas, rescued in the woods by the staff of the center.
After having lunch with the workers of the center, we helped to prepare panda cakes and fed again a panda in the afternoon. We were so tempted to touch and cuddle Mr Cutie!!! But it’s not allowed unfortunately 😦
Don’t worry if you see fences between us and the panda. They are free to move around their space/house full of toys, trees and bamboos. But visitors can feed them only in this way for safety reasons. Pandas are still bears and their nails are very sharp.
Was it worth?
Of course!!! Volunteering in the conservation center is expensive but absolutely worth! You have the opportunity to see pandas very close, to feed them and to ask all possible questions you might have about the most famous endangered species of the world. The money goes anyway to the conservation center, so consider it like a donation.