Giant Pandas are no longer classified as an endangered species according to the WWF however there are only 1,864 left in the wild and 400 in captivity. That would make it seem to me that they are incredibly vulnerable. The only place they live in the wild is in remote mountainous regions of central China. Beijing zoo first exhibited Pandas at the zoo in 1955 and commenced a breeding program in 1975. There are only two Pandas in captivity that are not owned by China and they are found at a zoo in Mexico. Zoos will pay a fortune (around a million dollars) to rent one per year. If the Panda breeds whilst rented a huge tax is charged. There are no Pandas in Australia so I was keen to see the Pandas in Beijing Zoo.
Along with thousands of other people. We had left our accomodation early and stopped on the way to the zoo to see a pearl factory. I can tell you no-one on our bus was happy with this arrangement. It was not a stop on the itinerary and as far as we were concerned this ate into our zoo time. Being a Saturday there were no restrictions on cars travelling to the city and the roads were jammed. By the time we arrived we had approximately one hour for our zoo visit.
Initially, following the throng we came to the Panda exhibitions. It was depressing. It was like Taronga Park Zoo had been in the sixties and seventies.Cement floors, pretend bamboo – a totally unnatural environment. The Panda lay asleep in the back corner. Luckily an experience in Hong Kog trying to queue for a toilet had taught me how to push and shove with the rest of them and I managed to get next to the glass to get a photograph. This is all that most of our group saw. Roger and I luckily decided to escape the crowds and we came upon a brand new purpose built Panda house.
Here they had made a big effort to get it right for the Pandas. No doubt their breeding program worked better with happy Pandas. The viewers had various platforms from which they could see and the Pandas had toys, places to hide and real vegetation.
Giant Pandas are neither nocturnal or diurnal falling into a third category of animals that are crepuscular – only active twice a day – at dawn and dusk. You can see that our visit didn’t occur at either of these times and all the pandas we saw were out for the count.
Above is another view of the new Panda house with yet another sleeping Panda. Pandas are classified as a poorly evolved creature as it was meant to be carnivorous but instead relies soley on bamboo for its poor source of nutrition and has to eat an awful lot of it in order to get the nutrients required.
We left the Panda house and had a quick (and I mean quick) look around. What we saw was again housing that left us depressed for the animals and the birds.
I’ve always loved baboons although this poor one looks like he has a pressure sore.
Some kind of bird of prey.
This Royal Pheasant had the run of the grounds, obviously not a flight risk.
Spring can be seen in the blossoms. The crowds were nowhere near as thick outside the Panda house. Time to go
Outside as we left the zoo we saw the one and only shanty town slum that we were to see in China. There was no doubt with the trucks and eathworking equipment in the vicinity that these too would soon not be seen. We were off to the airport – to visit the Venice of China Suzhou.