One of the reasons we came to Chengdu was to see the pandas. Originally we thought we’d travel the 4 hours to the Wolong Reserve in the bamboo forests of Western Sichuan, but it turned out there was a “breeding and research center” just outside the city. For the second day we joined our new friends from the Mix Hostel on a guided outing to the panda park. Though our driver was pushy and yelled at us frequently and fervently in Chinese, he led us right to the best spots for viewing the black and white fluffballs. Like koalas, pandas eat a few hours a day and then sleep the remainder, making it hard to ever really see them in action. Our favorites were the “sub-adults,” especially the one below who assumed a rather creative position in a tree, and the babies who are kept in a wooden crib. There were strict rules forbidding photographing or videotaping the infants, but as we’ve discovered the Chinese are inclined to do, more than a few nodded their heads at the guards and furtively snuck their shots anyway. Tom was a respectful tourist and refrained.
The red pandas complete with long racoon-like tails were also a big hit with the kids. Lower on their list of favorites came the video that touched on topics such as insemination, copulation, and other issues related to captive breeding. The Chinese are a little more graphic in their explanations and depictions of animal husbandry than we Americans so we were relieved when the movie ended and made a hasty exit to the museum. The word “museum” tends to be interpreted loosely here and this particular one stretched the definition to new limits. It comprised pictures of the center’s current inhabitants and the remains of some of its former ones. We quickly bypassed the fetuses in formaldehyde in favor of the immensely amusing collection of stuffed critters. If you remember my post on BYU’s Monte Bean Museum, you know that dead animals are a big hit with the kids, but we’ve never encountered anything quite like these. I’m not sure if they have different standards for taxidermy here or if they actually prefer their preserved mammal carcasses to look mangy and deformed. In any event, the entire collection, which was substantial, merits membership in the Andrus Scary Mannequin Collection.
Kiwis, koalas, pandas, what next? Birds in Vietnam?