Giant Pandas, the much-loved roly-poly animals, make their home in the lush bamboo forests of China. At once a national treasure and an emblem of the country, these animals are as rare as they are eccentric. While lots of people want to see pandas on their China vacations, it’s quite rare to find them in the wild, leaving many to ask where to see pandas in China. With a visit to the Chengdu Panda Research Centre or one of the panda preserves, you’re more likely to see these amazing creatures munching on bamboo and showing off how cute they really are.
While pandas are some of the best-known animals anywhere, they’re one of the most vulnerable. Many factors have led to the panda’s decline, such as industrialization, deforestation, and the pandas themselves. They’re shy and slow to breed, preferring to be solitary animals. Giant pandas are well-protected from some of the colder weather experienced throughout China, and they do no hibernate in the winter like other members of the bear family. Although they are carnivorous, the vast majority of their diet comes from bamboo. Their only natural habitat is found on the mountains of these three regions in western and southwestern China.
The Chinese government has worked to protect the current and future panda population, enacting a number of policies and programs. The majority of pandas seen zoos around the world come from China—serving as an ambassadors of China on long-term loans. In China itself, the government also has worked to preserve panda habitat. Currently, 32 nature preserves have been set up throughout Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces to provide a home for giant pandas. The World Wildlife Foundation, whose logo is a giant panda, helped with these efforts as well. Since the preservation work began, the numbers have increased and pandas are not as threatened as they once were.
When you’re wondering where to see pandas in China, making a visit to one of the nature preserves in a smart choice. The Chengdu Panda Research Centre is one of the most popular things to do on Chinese vacations that visit western China. While preservation of the panda is their number one priority, educational tourism is part of their mission. The center is located on a prime slice of panda habitat just outside of Chendu, the vibrant capital of the Sichuan Province.
Open daily, this eco-tourism hotspot provides a home for giant pandas as well as red pandas and other endangered wildlife. Once you arrive, you’ll find a sleek and modern Panda Museum, with interactive exhibits, a gift shop and other visitor services. Tour guides are available to lead tours in English, Chinese and Japanese. Comfortable trams also depart from the museum, which allow you to see the panda habitats up close. It takes about three hours to see the same route if you choose to walk.
The Wolong National Nature Reserve, another option for where to see pandas in the China, is located an easy drive outside Chengdu. It’s found along the banks of the Minjiang River on the eastern slope of Gonglai Mountain. Since the reserve was established in 1963, it’s provided a safe home for pandas and their habitat. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s panda population can be found here, along with golden pheasants and golden monkeys, among other amazing creatures.
After the devastating earthquake in 2008, many of the pandas were moved to Bifengxia Panda Base, also under the watch of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. This reserve is also outside of Chengdu, in this case, just outside Ya’an City. Many tours that visit Ya’an City also make stops at Mount Emei and the Giant Buddha of Leshan, also cultural landmarks of China.
If you're wondering where to see pandas in China because you are only going to be in a big city, you'll be interested to learn that there are pandas in the Beijing Zoo and at Ocean Park in Hong Kong.