By Ingrid Ahlgren
This September, animal lovers were saddened when a giant panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., died just days after being born. The zoo’s director described the panda’s unexpected death as“devastating.” After all, these gentle giants are among the most endangered animals in the world, and panda breeding programs are crucial for the species’ survival.
The National Zoo isn’t the only place working to conserve the endangered animals. In China, the non-profit Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, also known as Chengdu Panda Base, is a research and breeding facility that strives to protect rare animals including giant pandas. Founded in 1987, the organization started out with just six pandas that were rescued from the wild. By 2008, the Panda Base had a captive panda population of 83, and it had announced an impressive 124 panda births.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has also had some recent success stories. On the first day of the Olympic Games, July 28, Li Li gave birth to the Panda Base’s first cub of 2012. In August, Yuan Yuan gave birth to a female cub and Si Yuan gave birth to a male cub, adding to the captive population at the Panda Base. Earlier in the year, vets and breeding specialists from the research facility worked to rescue a wild giant panda that was seriously ill.
In June 2013, as part of a family-focused journey to China, Academic Arrangements Abroad will visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. During an unforgettable day, program participants of all ages will work alongside the zoo keepers. They will have a rare opportunity to learn about these magnificent creatures as they feed, bathe and teach the giant pandas.
And who knows? By next summer maybe there will even be a new panda cub or two at the Chengdu Panda Base.
Click here for a link to a video of cubs at the Chengdu Panda Base playing on a slide.