It’s Spring festival in China right now, otherwise known as Chinese New Year. This meant that we had last week off work so we were able to jet off to a Chinese city called Chongqing.
Whilst we were in Chongqing one of the main reasons for going was to see the giant pandas. The Chongqing zoo has five giant pandas on loan to them from the nearby Chengdu research facility. When we first arrived at the zoo the pandas were hiding at the back of their enclosures and not wanting to come out, but after persevering we were lucky enough to be there for feeding time which is when they really put on a show.
There are four females and one male panda at the zoo and each had their own enclosure with a decent amount of space and a platform for them to climb and enjoy some food on. One of the pandas was quite playful and was enjoying a game of peek-a-boo with another through a mesh fence and the male panda was lazily scratching himself whilst posing on his feeding platform.
All in all we were very lucky timing wise as I had heard that pandas like to sleep for the most part of the day and aren’t very active otherwise. I managed to get what I wanted photography wise and enjoyed seeing the national animal of China.
A little history:
Today, these mostly vegetarian, black and white bears are among the most famous animals in the world (what scientists call “charismatic megafauna”). However, they were practically unknown for centuries, even in China! Indeed, although Chinese artists have constantly depicted black bears and bamboo forests since ancient times, the giant panda was never depicted until the 20th century! Rumors and reports of a strange “white bear” found in Chinese mountains were regarded as myths until 1869, when French missionary Armand David sent the skin of a hunted specimen to Europe. It was only then that pandas were finally accepted by scientists as a real animal.
Giant pandas were finally seen alive by a European in 1916, when German zoologist Hugo Weigold got to see and buy a cub. (Don’t get excited, they don’t sell baby pandas anymore). As an interesting side note, giant pandas are known in China as the Great Bear-Cat; this is because pandas have vertical pupils, just like cats, but unlike other bears. They were once thought to be giant, aberrant relatives to the raccoon, but DNA testing has proved what seemed obvious from the beginning; that they are a true, if unusual member of the bear family.
Ref: List Verse
Below are some videos of the pandas. More on the rest of our trip to Chongqing in my next post.
Panda eating off belly:
Two pandas playing: