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Getting close to giant pandas

Less than 2,000 in the wild

Giant pandas live in large bamboo forests on humid mountain slopes, about 1,200 to 3,100 meters (4,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level. Currently, they mainly live in the Qin Mountains (秦岭) in Shaanxi Province, and the Min Mountains (岷山) in Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

According to the official report based on 2014 census, there are 1,864 in the wild. In spite of  a figure 268 higher than ten years ago, the giant panda is still one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world.

If you want to see a giant panda up close, going to one of the breeding centers or bases is more viable than tracking in the wild. By the end of 2015, a total of 422 pandas were in captivity.

Top places to see giant panda

1/4  Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center 成都大熊猫繁育研究基地

  • Location: No.1375, Panda Avenue, Chenghua District, Chengdu, Sichuan Province
  • Opening hours: 7:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.
  • Entry: 58 yuan/person
  • Pandas: about 80

Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center [Image Credit: Xinhuanet]
Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center [Image Credit: Xinhuanet]
The Panda base is easily accessible, located about 10 kilometers north of Chengdu on Futou Mountain (斧头山). The base specializes in baby pandas. The landscape, combined with artificial climbing apparatuses, creates a natural and mentally healthy environment for the pandas. The world’s only Giant Panda museum is another spot to learn about the critically endangered species.

Tips: There are experts at the panda base to guide tourists, instruct them how to feed giant pandas and teach conservation methods.

2/4   Bifengxia Giant Panda Base 碧峰峡大熊猫基地

  • Location: Bifengxia scenic spot, Ya’an Prefecture, Sichuan Province
  • Opening hours: 8:30 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
  • Entry: 150 yuan/person
  • Pandas: about 20

Bifengxia Giant Panda Base [Image Credit: Xinhua]
Bifengxia Giant Panda Base [Image Credit: Xinhua]
The Giant Panda Base of Bifengxia, or Green Peak Valley (碧峰峡), was established in 2003 and has become the largest giant panda base in the world. The base has dense forest, numerous waterfalls and breathtaking scenery that make a visit very pleasant.

Tips:At the base, pandas are mainly kept in a free-range habitat, so visitors can see their activities in a more natural environment than at other centers.

 3/4  Dujiangyan Panda Base 都江堰熊猫基地

  • Location: Huaizhong Road, Shiqiao Village, Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province
  • Opening hours: 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
  • Entry: 60 yuan/person
  • Pandas: about 20

Dujiangyan Panda Base [Image Credit: Chinanews]
Dujiangyan Panda Base [Image Credit: Chinanews]
The China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda at Dujiangyan Panda Base is a new panda center, established in 2014. Sitting next to the giant panda’s habitant, the base has a suitable climate for pandas to live and a wide variety of bamboos. It’s China’s first scientific research base for giant panda disease control, and houses up to 40 pandas.

Tips: With fewer travelers than other centers,  you have more chances to get close to the pandas.

4/4  Beijing Zoo 北京动物园

  • Location: No.137 Xizhimen Street, Xicheng District, Beijing
  • Opening hours: 7:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. (April-Oct.) ;  7:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.(Dec.-March)
  • Entry: 14 yuan/person

Beijing Zoo [Image Credit: Xinhua]
Beijing Zoo [Image Credit: Xinhua]
Beijing Zoo is the largest zoo in China with the largest number of animal species. The panda enclosure is one of the most popular in the zoo.

Tips: For those who cannot make their trip to Chengdu, Beijing Zoo is a good alternative to see pandas. However, the panda enclosure in Beijing Zoo is always fully-packed.

Other zoos with giant pandas

There are other hot areas in China where you can see pandas, such as Shanghai Zoo (上海动物园), Chime-Long Paradise Amusement Park (长隆野生动物世界) in Guangzhou, Ocean Park in Hong Kong (香港海洋公园), and Giant Panda Pavilion in Macau (澳门熊猫馆). They are also available in zoos in many other major tourist cities across the country, like Chongqing, Wuhan, Guilin, Kunming, Xi’an, Dalian, Fuzhou, Nanjing and so on. It’s always a worthy supplement to your tight schedule.

In addition, under collaborative research projects, there are 42 pandas travelling abroad and distributed in 17 zoos in 12 countries, including Japan, US, Austria, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, UK, France, Singapore, Canada, Belgium and Malaysia. Pandas are also popular stars there.


Panda in zoo in U.S. [Image Credit: Xinhua]
Panda in zoo in U.S. [Image Credit: Xinhua]
How to fare with a panda bear

  • Pictures holding a panda are not allowed. In order to protect the giant pandas from canine distemper infection, all the panda bases stopped the interactive panda activities in 2015.
  • Please keep quiet. Giant pandas are stressed by loud and sudden noises.
  • Take photos without flash. The eyes of animals, especially panda cubs, are vulnerable to flashes.
  • Do not feed the animals, including with bamboo picked on the panda base. Your food is not suitable for them and will make them sick. Their keepers feed them a rationed diet.
  • Smoking is prohibited in the panda base to prevent the risk of fire.

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