This place in China allows you to take care of a Panda and hug it as a reward!
Panda Bear must be one of the cutest animals in the world. In fact, it has often been used to lure the attention of kids and kids-at-heart. From stuffed toys, cartoon characters, emoticons, shirt designs, TV ads and even in international diplomacy (in the case of China), Pandas seem to carry an irresistible charm that everyone falls for.
However, no matter how adorable they may seem, encountering them remains to be highly elusive for most people. Getting up close and personal with a panda isn’t easy, especially since they’re only found in selected zoos. The rest of them are either being raised in Panda Conservation Centers or roaming free in the bamboo forests of Sichuan Province in China.
The good news is, there are selected places in Sichuan Province that allow volunteers to take care and even cuddle with this adorable creature. Volunteer work and other conservation efforts have resulted in 16% increase in their numbers.
Want to take part in their conservation and hug them at the same time? Here’s how:
Before You Go
Anyone who is serious about becoming a volunteer must first consider accomplishing the following requirements in order to become one. Tourists heading to China are required to secure a tourist visa. In the case of the Panda Volunteers, interested individuals must coordinate with their preferred travel agencies for a formal invitation letter on becoming a Panda Volunteer. Be sure to deal only with Travel Agencies that have direct contact to Panda Sanctuaries that offer volunteer programs. After obtaining the Chinese Visa, travellers must secure a medical certificate from their Physician, stating that they are of excellent health and are not sick of any contagious disease before and during the Panda interaction. Before this policy was imposed, tourist can freely interact with Pandas until 2 cubs contracted a form of human flu and died.
How to become a Panda Volunteer
To date, there are only 3 places that allow volunteer work to protect the Pandas. The most accessible is located in Dujiangyan town, 1.5 hours away from Chengdu City, capital of Sichuan Province.
The Dujiangyan Panda Sanctuary Volunteer Program involves various tasks stretched over a 10-hour period. This includes cleaning the Panda housing, picking Panda excretion (aka Panda Poop!), Hand feeding the Panda, all of which are performed twice a day.
In the afternoon after lunchtime, volunteers watch a Panda documentary and make Panda cakes towards the end of the day. Voluteers are provided special uniform and gloves that they are required to wear during the entire course of the volunteer work.
Hugging the Panda
Around 11 AM each day, 30 people — volunteers and tourists — get the privilege to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hug, cuddle and take pictures with a Panda. Typically, volunteers are given priority and the remaining people can be any tourist visiting the sanctuary. Both volunteer programs and hugging a Panda come with a “Donation Fee”. These fees will go to the budget in further sustaining the sanctuary and protecting the Pandas.
The price is definitely not cheap but thinking of its positive impact to the lives and protection of these adorable fur balls make it totally worth it. A day of Volunteer work costs about $250, while hugging and photo ops with the Panda costs about $285.
Volunteer work, together with other conservation efforts to protect the Giant Pandas have resulted to notable increase in their numbers. As of 2014, there has been a 17% percent increase in the Panda population. This has lead to the removal of their “Endangered” status and upgrade to Vulnerable Species in the handled by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Whether you’re spending volunteer efforts with them as a Panda Keeper, or simply hugging them and “donate” for their conservation, you’re doing these Pandas a “Bear-ry” big favor!
Dujiangyan Panda Center is at Shiqiao (Stone Bridge) Village, Qingchengshan, Sichuan China. For inquiries, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more travel adventures, join me as #iHAP around the Philippines and beyond!