If you’re considering working as a Giant Panda Volunteer, here are a few tips that will make the experience more rewarding.
Watching a Giant Panda is one thing but we’ll bet most people would jump at a chance to come much closer to these beautiful creatures in a more natural setting. What about actually caring for and cuddly a baby panda?
Well, if your interest is piqued then this post is for you.
Thanks to the efforts of the Chinese authorities, international governments and people just like you, giant pandas are now edging further away from extinction. But, its a very labor intensive and expensive venture. In fact, the well-being of these bears is now enjoying a major boost through channels like various Giant Panda Volunteer programs.
International and local volunteers are welcome to lend a hand caring for these creatures. But, there are some conditions to fulfill and some things you’ll need to know before you travel down to China.
Let’s look at the most important ones below.
Some Tips For Success During A Giant Panda Volunteer Program
Expect Very Close Supervision
You’ll be working in a strange environment with animals. Therefore, expect to be closely monitored by the full time staff at all times.
Remember that mature panda bears have a fearful bite and sharp claws so all precautions are for your safety as well as the bears.’ If you are unsure of anything ensure you ask before you proceed with any task.
Expect To Work: A Lot
The reality is that this is not a holiday. Prepare to be available when you’re called on and be ready to complete any task you are assigned. As a giant panda volunteer you may well work up to eight hours daily.
However, they won’t want to wear you out so you’ll still get two days off weekly.
The Giant panda volunteer programs are not open during the Chinese New Year Holiday ( late January or early to mid-February).
As A Giant Panda Volunteer Your Tasks Will Vary
Usually, you’ll be assigned some routine and repetitive tasks at first. But if you are stay longer with time you could get involved in the more critical tasks.
This is what volunteers do at most centers:
- Carrying, arranging and organizing what will seem like tons of bamboo.
- Cleaning the panda dens. Be ready as this can get quite messy.
- Bathing the pandas, keeping them clean.
- Preparing food and feeding the bears.
- Supporting the keepers and admin staff in other tasks as they get to trust you more.
- Helping to bathe the pandas.
- Helping with medical care if required.
Duration Of The Program
Some programs last just one day while others can be up to four weeks. You get to determine how much time you can spend there depending on your own availability.
Age And Health Restrictions
Most giant panda volunteer programs require that you are up to 18 years old.
Of course, you have to be in very good physical condition to cope with the physical demands of the daily tasks. Hence, some centers will ask for a letter from your doctor confirming your fitness.
Before you get close to the bears, a supervior will run through the rules with you. Generally:
- No sudden noises or movements.
- Don’t throw food at the bears.
- No pictures or videos allowed. Or ask for permission first as some centers ask for a fee.
- Do not touch the bears or enter the enclosure with an adult panda inside. You may only do so with the approval of the keepers.
- Wear firm, non-slip footwear.
- Avoid perfume and very strongly scented creams and lotions, and nail polish too.
Expect To Pay Some Money
Costs will vary depending on which center you choose but most ask for about $100 daily.
With that settled, you can expect to get accommodation, meals 3 times daily, transportation from your hostel to the center, etc. It’s important you confirm everything you are paying for beforehand as each center is different in what they can offer you.
Many of the centers lodge their volunteers at a nearby hostel so confirm if you’ll be sharing a room and bathroom facilities with others. If that kind of living does not work for you, find out if a more comfortable lodging arrangement can be made well in advance before you arrive.
Some popular giant panda volunteer locations are :
- Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (or Chengdu Panda Base for short) in Sichuan.
- Gengda Wolong Panda Center.
- China Conversation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), Bifengxia.
- Dujiangyan Panda Center
Once you’ve decided where you’d like to volunteer, double-check that everything is in place then make the trip down to China. It could become one of your most memorable trips ever.