We could not be in China without visiting the Giant Pandas so took ourselves off to the Beijing Zoo. Pandas sleep about 16 hours a day so we timed our visit for the morning when we heard they were most likely to be active.
The first Panda we saw was sitting up munching on a feast of bamboo leaves. He looked like he was at a resort, lounging against a rock and enjoying himself. When he finished eating he walked over to a platform for a snooze and had a cute wiggle as he walked. Pandas are pigeon toed so I guess that accounts for their unusual gait.
They bear hugged each other, chased each other, nipped at each other, rolled through the dirt together, climbed up a platform and slid off it. We stood there mesmerised for about 20 minutes until they exhausted themselves and lay down for a nap.
Here are a few random facts I have now discovered about Pandas.
- In 2014 there were only 1,864 Giant Pandas left in the wild, while very low it is actually a success story with the number increasing from around 1,000 in the 1970’s. In the last decade numbers have risen by 17%. There are about 100 Pandas in zoos and all are involved in breeding programs.
- Female pandas only ovulate once a year and are only fertile for two or three days a year.
- A panda mother is 900 times bigger than her newborn cub and many newborn cubs die from being accidentally crushed by their mothers.
- A panda fur is worth between $60,000 to $100,000 on the illegal trade market.
The Panda enclosures seemed to be quite well done but the zoo as a whole needs substantial work, although I hear it has dramatically improved over the years. The white rhinoceros and elephants were particularly sad in their small enclosures. I’ve discussed my discomfort about zoos in Swapping my Workmates for Orangutans when we visited Singapore Zoo, which compared to the Beijing Zoo, is a paradise.