16 June, China – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’

Today Bobby and I fed a panda, and I’m feeling very smug about it.

This morning we were up early and drove several hours into the foothills of the Himalayas (apparently we’re quite close to Tibet) to the Shenshuping Panda Base, a modern looking complex built out of stone, with a car park stuffed full of stalls selling panda merch. Once we’d been greeted and got changed into some official blue boiler suits we were taken on an access all areas tour – first stop, cleaning out poo from the cages.

There was a lot of it. We were cleaning out an enclosure that had housed 4 one year old pandas for 12 hours and we picked up 24 kilos of poo! Luckily it’s not particularly offensive stuff, it’s basically just mashed up bamboo. Next a whole bunch of baby pandas barrelled into the cage next door, hoping to get some food. They were hilarious, clambering all over each other and doing forward rolls across the floor for no reason. Once they realised there was no food to be had they went back through the hole to their outdoor enclosure, where we headed to get shots of them bumbling about on the grass and doing adorable things like climbing on a see saw. Then almost as one they all fell asleep, even the two that had climbed up a tree.

Since they were now unconscious it seemed like a good time to eat lunch on the steps of the enclosure, before we rounded off the afternoon learning how to make nutritious cake for them to eat and fed some to a little one year old fella who had been brought in to be weighed (64 kilos in case you were wondering). We had to stand a metre back from the bars and offer the food up very carefully as they can actually be quite a hazard with their sharp claws and teeth. Funny to think that at some point these pandas will be released into the wild and will be fending for themselves. They certainly seem to have quite a good life at the moment.

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