You can volunteer with giant pandas at a reserve in China and help provide care for these beautiful bears.
This volunteer project offers you the chance to take a hands-on role in helping to protect the national animal of China, the Giant Panda. These bears may have been downgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the IUCN's list, but they still need a lot of help if they are to survive as a species. The panda is coming under increasing pressure in its endemic home as the huge human population of China, around 1.3 billion people, is putting a strain on natural resources, and as a result they are taking away areas which the panda used to call home.
About the Project
The volunteer base for this project is found within the beautiful Bifengxia mountain range in China, but it was not in this location where the project originally began! After disaster struck and an Earthquake hit the Hetaoping Panda Centre, a lot of the bears who once called it home were moved to the current site at Bifengxia. This is where things really began to take off for all involved with the project, including the pandas!
Throughout the time the project has been located at Bifengxia, the panda population here has doubled and there are now 40 bears in residence at the centre. The staff at the centre cares for the rescued bears and provide them the food and mental stimulation they need in their daily lives, however this would not be possible without the help of volunteers!
Volunteers play a big role in helping the centre to run smoothly, as when the panda population increases, so does the workload! As a volunteer you will help to care for the bears in a number of ways. The first and perhaps most important of these is through enclosure cleaning. The bears at this centre have two separate enclosures in which they are able to roam and explore - one inside and one outside. This means that both need cleaning every day as the pandas have been known to get a little messy, and this would not be possible without volunteer help! You will also help to feed the bears by both preparing their food and then feeding it to them. Pandas are famous for their love of bamboo, but as this actually has very little nutritional value, at the centre they are fed a combination of carrots, apples, panda cake, and of course their favourite of bamboo amongst many other things!
The project also aims to introduce volunteers to Chinese culture and during your time here you will take part in a host of activities that will truly immerse you in the local values and beliefs. After a busy day of volunteering, your evenings will be spent learning how to speak Chinese, carefully constructing the Chinese alphabet in calligraphy lessons, and even learning how to make some delicious Chinese dumplings. One thing is for sure and that is that you will leave this project with more skills than you came with!
The overall aim of this project is to educate people about the plight of the panda, and to create an environment in which the pandas can be properly cared for. The project staff want to learn as much as they can about the panda, and as a volunteer you will help to create a platform from which they can do this.
Prior to Arrival
In order to volunteer at the Panda Centre in China you will need to apply for a Visa before you travel. You will need to get in touch with your local Chinese Embassy as costs vary for each residents of each country.
You will need to fly into Chengdu International Airport on the Project Start Date between the times of 8am-12pm. Several airports serve Chengdu.
Upon arrival into Chengdu International Airport you will be required to make your way to the McDonalds Café and this is where you will be met by your project representative. From here you will take a transfer to the Mrs Panda Hostel in Chengdu City which is where you will be staying for the first two nights of the project. After you have dropped off your bags you will be free to wander through the streets of the city, taking in the sights and sounds and even trying some market food if you want to!
After tucking into breakfast at the Mrs Panda Hostel you will visit the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre to take a look around and see all of the good work that is going on here. If you keep your eyes peeled you may even be able to spot the adorable red pandas which live here too! After lunch you’ll take a walking tour of Chengdu City, and the day will end with dinner in a local hotpot restaurant.
It is an early start today as you and your fellow volunteers will have to be up at 6.15am ready to transfer to the Bifengxia Panda Reserve where the project is based. This journey takes around 2 and a half hours and you’ll arrive in time for breakfast. After this you are free to unpack and listen to your project briefing before it is time for lunch. This afternoon will be spent on a three hour waterfall trek before dinner and a video back at base!
Today is the day you begin the project and will meet the pandas for the first time. After breakfast you will head over to the area of the panda centre to which you have been assigned and you will begin by cleaning both of the panda enclosures (both inside and out). After this period of hard work you’ll then have an hours break to observe the bears up close. Then it’s feeding time for the panda for the first of their four meals per day. After lunch you will feed the pandas once again, and then take a walk around the sanctuary to observe the other bears. This evening consists of lessons in both dumpling making and the ancient Chinese game of Mahjong, alongside another delicious meal for dinner.
Breakfast at 8.30am is followed by time spent cleaning the pandas enclousres and feeding time with the bears. If you've been lucky enough to be placed with a mother and her cubs you will be able to watch the keepers feed the young ones! After you have finished your volunteering tasks for the day, you will head back to the panda centre and have the chance to learn both the Chinese language and Chinese calligraphy.
Today you will take part in the same activities as the previous days until you finish at 4pm. After this you will have the chance to spend time with the other volunteers either at the on-site bar or playing games such as the local Mahjong which you will have learned to play whilst here! You will also have the option to further explore the panda centre if you wish, and this is a good time to check out all of the good work that goes on here.
Today it is time to say your goodbyes as you will transfer back to Chengdu International Airport to return home or to begin your onward travel plans.
Start Dates 2017
In your free time here, you will be given the chance to learn about Chinese culture through activities such as language and calligraphy lessons, dumpling-making classes and even the chance to learn the ancient Chinese game of Mahjong!
On the day you arrive into Chengdu you will be met by the project representative at the McDonalds cafe inside the airport and then transferred to the Mrs Panda Hostel in Chengdu. This journey will take approximately 30 minutes.