Exclusive ecotourism route to see giant pandas set to open

A giant panda with her cub. Photo/COURTESY
A giant panda with her cub. Photo/COURTESY

An exclusive ecotourism route featuring giant pandas will soon be open in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

As the only one of its kind in the world, the route will integrate sightseeing resources across four bases breeding pandas in captivity, 46 giant panda nature reserves and three habitats for wild pandas. On this specially designed route, the Wolong National Nature Reserve — the reputed panda kingdom — has come under the spotlight.

The Wolong National Nature Reserve, located at the foot of Qionglai Mountain, is the first giant panda sanctuary in the world. Its territory of more than 2000 square kilometers is home to over 200 giant pandas, accounting for over half of the pandas in captivity around the world.

Working as a panda keeper in such a tranquil, picturesque landscape appears to be one of the happiest things in the world. Nonetheless, in the eyes of Zhang Yahui, who has been here for 13 years, being a good keeper requires enormous energy and meticulousness.

Currently, he takes care of two seven-year-old female pandas. An adult panda needs to be fed six times a day, and bamboo isn’t the only food they eat. They also enjoy steamed soybean bread, corn, eggs and even calcium tablets.

Apart from chopping bamboo and making special foods for the cute creatures, Zhang also cleans their housing, sweeps away remaining bamboo poles and leaves, and weighs their excrement to analyze their health.

Furthermore, apart from training giant pandas for the wild, the reserve also has an exhaustive list of jobs that calls for tremendous consideration.

The latest census counted more than 100 wild pandas in the reserve, a slight increase from before. To ensure continued population growth, the reserve freed two captive pandas after wilderness training.

“We have launched a one-week field patrol of the wild training area, mainly to check for unfavorable living conditions for the pandas, including traps set up by lawbreakers,” said Liu Bo, political commissar of the Wolong Detachment of the Chinese People’s Armed Police forest unit.

In 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded giant pandas from being “endangered” to “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species, a recognition of China’s years of conservation efforts.

To facilitate the development of the ecotourist route, the tunnel connecting Yingxiu, Wolong and Balang Mountain was completed last October, considerably shortening the travel time for interested visitors. It is expected that Wolong, which combines panda conservation with ecotourism, will attract more tourists from home and abroad.

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