I always think I’m not interested in animals. But last year’s trip to Borneo showed me I could be interested in – even enthusiastic about – orangutans and proboscis monkeys, and after my recent visit to the Chungdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (that probably sounds better in the original Chinese) I’m more than a little interested in Giant Pandas.
I’m not sure what it is that makes pandas so appealing. The black spots around their eyes and the black ears are so neat and regular. Their bodies are floppy – spreading softly as they collapse onto their backs or stomachs.
An accident seems imminent as they climb trees and comically arrange their big floppy bodies on impossibly small branches.
Anyway, I’ll stop gushing. If you ever get a chance to go to Chengdu, spend a day with the pandas. If possible, do it on a mild day when the pandas are most active. There are baby pandas arranged on pink blankets,
adolescent pandas rolling and playing and eating in groups,
and solitary adult pandas doing their own thing.
The large, seemingly natural enclosures enabled us to get unexpectedly close to the animals so there were lots of opportunities for watching their behavior and laughing and exclaiming.
And as a bonus, there are also red pandas – another endangered Chinese species - who are sometimes called firefoxes. The agile red pandas are almost as engaging as the giant pandas, with their cute ringed eyes and brushy raccoon-like ringed tails.
A victory for the animals.