23 July 2019
CHINA AND THE CHENGDU RESEARCH BASE OF GIANT PANDA BREEDING
A blog by Kim Miller, a WWF-Australia legacy donor
In June 2019 I had the opportunity to tour China for 21 days. It was an amazing trip starting in the north in Beijing and finishing in Shanghai.
The tour included a visit to the Great Wall where we climbed part of this structure at the Juyongguan Pass. It was a difficult walk and I struggled to climb the hundreds of steps, of variable height, to reach the second fort but my determination ensured my success. In ancient China this mountain pass was known as ‘the most magnificent pass in the world’. In 1987 the Great Wall of China was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Terracotta Warriors of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in Lintong County, outside Xi'an, Shaanxi, were next on our tour. This amazing army, only discovered in the 1970s, with its life-size warriors and their horses is an intriguing site captivating millions of tourists each year.
We visited many places but one of my best, and most emotional, days was in Chengdu at the Panda Research Base. Our national tour included 90 mins at the centre but clearly, we had no chance of seeing all that I wanted to see in that time. Our time there stretched out over close to three hours and it was one of my most memorable experiences. Watching the pandas sitting back in a very relaxed state munching their way through copious amounts of bamboo actually brought tears to my eyes.
When I say it was an emotional day, I refer to my mixed feelings of joy and sadness. While their surroundings are designed to mirror their natural habitat and they appeared to be well looked after, enjoying their food and environment, I felt a sense of loss and even despair that this centre had to exist. Our guide told us that there were only 1,864 giant pandas in the wild which made the purpose of the centre very worthwhile. Still, I am reminded of the effects of human habitation on the natural environment and the damage and decline in the numbers of other species largely caused by humans. I feel very strongly in my belief that this planet is for all of us, humans, wildlife, birdlife, marine life, insects and all other creatures. The extinction rate of species in Australia is deplorable and we will be the poorer for their loss. It is up to us, those who care about diversity and the protection of the natural environment, to do everything possible to ensure the long-term existence of all species.
This is my reason for being a WWF supporter as a volunteer and a legacy gift donor. To me the protection of our environment so that it helps to ensure the well-being and continuance of all living things, including humankind, is incredibly important and worth fighting for, donating to and actively assisting in, its deliverance.
I have included some photos of the gorgeous pandas and I hope that China, and organisations like WWF, are successful in their work to increase the numbers of these much-adored animals.
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