March 22, 2023

Chengdu’s Panda Base offers close-ups with giant pandas

Arrive as early as 8am to sign up to hold a baby panda at Chengdu, China.
Not only can you see giant pandas—the rarest and possibly most beloved bear on Earth—in Chengdu, you can actually hold an adorable baby panda in your arms.

You may worry that this is exploitative, but the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Foundation, which offers this once-in-a-lifetime photo op, is no money-grubbing sham. It’s a highly regarded nonprofit organization that has received the Global 500 Award for environmental achievement from the United Nations Environmental Programme.

What began with six rescue pandas in 1987 is now a research, breeding, and conservation operation with a population of 100 giant pandas—impressive for an endangered species numbering fewer than 2,000 worldwide.

On the grounds of the research base—Panda Base, as it’s known—the portly, black-and-white bears roam large, landscaped enclosures with rivers, bamboo forests, and manmade caves and dens mimicking the bears’ natural environment. Visitors can get quite close to the pandas on the paved paths, watching them sleep, rest, play, and gnaw on bamboo.

While giant pandas are the main attractions here, Panda Base is also home to red pandas and several endangered and vulnerable bird species. It also has a museum, a cinema, restaurants, and English-speaking guides.

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