Wow! We’ve flown from a third world country to an industrialized country, from a country where the official religion is Theravada Buddhism to one that officially has no religion, from a country where the predominant vehicle is a motorized bike to one where there’s a Lamborghini dealership, from a country where 80% of the population is under the age of 18--due to genocide--to a country where ~80% of the population is over 20. I wouldn’t be able to identify this data easily because we’ve come from one of our countries with better internet access to one where “CheetahMama” and “beyondmarketing.com” are unapproved.
Our group traveling to Tibet is really only here as a pitstop on the way to Tibet. We flew into Cheng-du in the southwest of China and took a one hour bus ride to the Panda Center (we had the option of going straight to the hotel). To try to give you a sense of the sprawl of this city of 14 million, it has three ring roads.
The “Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding” reportedly has over 300 Giant Pandas, with the world population hovering around 1900. Within the last year, 13 baby pandas were born here, which isn’t shabby. That being said, the more you learn about the Giant Panda, the more you feel you are witness to a species that really was intended by God to swirl the drain. Yes, I’m sure somewhere our deforestation of its ecosystem has had a terribly impact, but this is a creature that spends most of the day sleeping because the digestion of its diet of bamboo just takes way too much energy; it really eats only one kind of food; both adult males and adult females prefer to be solitary (ask any twenty-something what that does for likelihood of copulation); and it gives birth to one to two cubs that are hairless and defenseless. It doesn’t even have camouflage. This isn’t a creature bound for proliferation…
The Panda Center is home to two types of pandas, the Red Panda and the Giant Panda. In Chinese, our guide told us that the Red Panda, which is about the size of a fox, is called the Little Panda, which creates confusion when people want to see baby Giant Pandas and are instead directed to the area of the Red Pandas. All in all, the Panda Center greatly resembles the San Diego Zoo, with about the same number of hills, some of which can be traversed by tram, and significant bamboo and other foliage shade cover, with a very large green enclosure for the Red Pandas, and separate enclosures for the adult Giant Pandas. Likewise, oodles of field tripping elementary school kids, though here they are all in the same uniform; recognizing caucasian faces, each group burst into waving “hello!” A little different than at the San Diego zoo, the Red Pandas traverse the pathway interrupting their habitat through holes in the fence, so our tour was pleasantly diverted by one, who first went one way and then went back the way he came across the path through all the people.
I would estimate that we saw somewhere between 20 and 30 Giant Pandas… though some were small.
Our guide spoke to us about the shift from the one-child policy to the two-child policy. Parents here sometimes do matchmaking for their children, which Scott and I both thought was a good idea. He indicated that when he got married, his wife and he would be working, so his parents would likely have to take care of the child. To be a good son, he also needed to take care of his parents, and a second child would be another bowl at the table. He felt the one-child policy left his generation lonely, but it sounded as though economically, he couldn’t justify a second child.