Volunteer in China – Giant Panda Center
I was slightly apprehensive as I arrived in Chengdu airport, ahead of my three weeks of volunteering with pandas at the Giant Panda Center. My nerves were quickly settled as I was greeted at the airport by my volunteer leader. After a few days sight seeing, myself and five others, were ready to start our volunteering.
A two hour bus ride took us to the panda base nestled in the mountainous area of Ya’an. After settling into our accommodation the tour leaders took us to the panda base. We were given a brief introduction of the tasks and fitted with our uniforms! After a night of icebreakers our volunteer group was getting closer than ever, we settled in for an early night, excited to face the pandas. We walked through the panda base to the keepers office, the path lined with towering bamboo. I was assigned a keeper and followed him to the pandas. As I approached the enclosure I couldn’t see a single panda – my keeper noticed my gazing and pointed to a wooden house in the enclosure. There a panda lay sleeping!
The keeper called the pandas into their separate cages so we could clean their outside areas and bring their morning bamboo. We were sweating after an hour of carrying kilos of bamboo into their enclosures! This was our daily routine – cleaning and bamboo carrying in the mornings and after preparing their food, three feedings throughout the day.
Feeding the pandas was an unforgettable experience. The pandas would rush to the entrance of the cage and lumber up to the front. My favorite panda, Susan, would hold a bar for support as she ate. They were so receptive and excited to get their special panda bread and carrots, relishing every bite.
It was incredible seeing how these majestic creatures had such unique personalities and quirks. My three weeks came to an end all too quickly.
Working with the pandas was such a rewarding experience and I hope many more continue to aid the survival of these unique creatures. – Amelia