2006.12.17: December 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - China: Parks: Wildlife: Pandas: Contra Costa Times: China RPCV Craig Simons writes: Wolong today is home to the largest cluster of the world's remaining wild pandas

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Peace Corps China : The Peace Corps in China: 2006.12.17: December 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - China: Parks: Wildlife: Pandas: Contra Costa Times: China RPCV Craig Simons writes: Wolong today is home to the largest cluster of the world's remaining wild pandas

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-26-66.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.245.26.66) on Monday, December 18, 2006 - 10:59 am: Edit Post

China RPCV Craig Simons writes: Wolong today is home to the largest cluster of the world's remaining wild pandas

China RPCV Craig Simons writes: Wolong today is home to the largest cluster of the world's remaining wild pandas

Beautiful and Pure were tussling: Pure had just scampered up a 6-foot post when Beautiful charged over and locked her teeth around a clump of his hair. After some determined pulling, both fell in a pile on the grass below.Then the real melee began: Four other year-old giant pandas padded over and joined in the raucous play, tumbling over each other in a black-and-white ball that left me and a handful of overjoyed tourists guessing where one animal ended and the next began. A plethora of pandas is why most visitors journey to the Wolong Nature Reserve, an 800-square-mile park in China's southwestern Sichuan province. Set up in 1963 to protect giant pandas, Wolong today is home to 153 wild pandas (the largest cluster of the world's estimated remaining 1,590 wild pandas) and 69 captive pandas (of 212 worldwide).

Wolong had some 80,000 visitors last year, about 20 percent of them foreigners, but fall is off-season and we shared the 64-acre center with only a few dozen other tourists. With aid from the World Wildlife Fund and American zoos -- including Zoo Atlanta, which works with researchers in Chengdu -- birthrates have soared as scientists have mastered using artificial insemination and raising young pandas abandoned by their mothers, which often give birth to twins but generally will raise only one cub.


China RPCV Craig Simons writes: Wolong today is home to the largest cluster of the world's remaining wild pandas

Panda, baby: China reserve home to rare bear

By Craig Simons
COX NEWS SERVICE

Photos: tangtang Courtesy Flicr: Creative Commons

WOLONG, China - Beautiful and Pure were tussling: Pure had just scampered up a 6-foot post when Beautiful charged over and locked her teeth around a clump of his hair. After some determined pulling, both fell in a pile on the grass below.

Then the real melee began: Four other year-old giant pandas padded over and joined in the raucous play, tumbling over each other in a black-and-white ball that left me and a handful of overjoyed tourists guessing where one animal ended and the next began.

A plethora of pandas is why most visitors journey to the Wolong Nature Reserve, an 800-square-mile park in China's southwestern Sichuan province. Set up in 1963 to protect giant pandas, Wolong today is home to 153 wild pandas (the largest cluster of the world's estimated remaining 1,590 wild pandas) and 69 captive pandas (of 212 worldwide).

Peace Corps Online

Passion for pandas

The nature reserve offers visitors a chance to get close to more pandas than they probably ever thought possible. That, at least, has been my experience. I first traveled to Wolong as a China-based Peace Corps volunteer in 1996 and since then have returned a half-dozen times with guests or simply to escape China's heavily polluted cities.

During the trips I've gotten very close to the beasts: Several times friends paid to have their pictures taken with pandas and pulled me in as cameraman (photographs with pandas are offered for between $30 and $60). Once a panda researcher invited me to watch as he performed an operation to artificially inseminate a panda.

More often, however, I simply picked a bench outside one of a dozen large outdoor enclosures and watched happily as the pandas played and ate, using their paws to grip bamboo stalks, strip the leaves off and stuff them into their mouths by the pawful.

On my latest trip, I convinced Leo Chen, a close friend from Chengdu, to join me. Partly I wanted him along because getting to Wolong isn't easy: After flying to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, visitors travel 100 miles west by car or bus along roads that range from a wide, safe highway to absurdly frightening -- packed with careening trucks, motorcycles loaded with entire families and farm animals that seem nothing less than suicidal as they wander among the traffic.

I had expected Leo to drive while I admired Sichuan's autumn scenery, russet browns of dried rice fields speckled with red and yellow foliage. But shortly after we set out he noticed that he'd forgotten his driver's license and I took the wheel for a couple of hours, weaving and dodging as I tried to keep his Ford Explorer in one piece.

Peace Corps Online

Mountain setting

As we pushed deeper into the vast Hengduan Mountain range, traffic thinned and I was able to relax and enjoy the view. The Hengduans -- which include the Wolong Reserve -- protect the world's greatest diversity of alpine and sub-alpine flora and dozens of rare animal species including pandas, snow leopards, blue sheep and black-necked cranes.

As we drove west up a valley, the land rose into towering cliffs and we marveled at clouds drifting amid distant peaks, reminding me of classical Chinese ink-wash paintings with their wide empty spaces. Scholars comment on how Chinese artists left the spaces intentionally blank so viewers could add their own visions, but perhaps, I thought, they were simply recording what they saw.

Welcome to Wolong

By the time we arrived at Wolong town, a village of several hundred year-round residents at the center of the reserve, we were ready for lunch and found the tiny Lin Hui restaurant, a simple place with a few white-plastic tables and excellent food. Our favorite was local mushrooms stir-fried with strips of pork and costing $1.75.

After lunch we checked into the four-star Wolong Hotel. Set at the bottom of pine-covered hills, the hotel (the best in the reserve) has clean and comfortable rooms with spectacular views of the valley and runs an adequate, if bland, restaurant.

Like most visitors, we were eager to see the pandas. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we drove 15 minutes to the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda -- ground zero for panda watching.

Opened in 1979 with a central government mandate to save the giant panda -- which is still highly endangered, if recovering -- the center is primarily a hub for research and breeding, and has achieved remarkable success at boosting the number of captive pandas.

Peace Corps Online

Bring on the pandas

With aid from the World Wildlife Fund and American zoos -- including Zoo Atlanta, which works with researchers in Chengdu -- birthrates have soared as scientists have mastered using artificial insemination and raising young pandas abandoned by their mothers, which often give birth to twins but generally will raise only one cub.

This year 19 pandas were born at the center and Leo and I started our tour by peering through windows at the local nursery. There, three 2-month-old pandas were sleeping in bread-box-size incubators and three slightly older pandas nursing from a bottle held by a researcher.

Wolong had some 80,000 visitors last year, about 20 percent of them foreigners, but fall is off-season and we shared the 64-acre center with only a few dozen other tourists.

I chatted with Tina and Diana, two vacationing Californians in their 20s. They had signed onto a tour with Baja Jones Adventure Trips, a California-based company that runs excursions to wildlife sanctuaries around the world, and were ecstatic to have held pandas the day before. They had volunteered to work at the research base over the next two days and had already received training on how to clean out the panda enclosures and about what kinds of bamboo pandas eat.

"It's just incredible to get so close to the pandas," Tina said. "I never thought I'd be able to do this."

After gawking at the newborns for a few minutes, we watched six 1-year-olds -- including Beautiful (in Chinese, Xiu Xiu) and Pure (Qing Qing) -- frolic in the afternoon sun. After they grew tired and fell asleep, we walked behind the research center and climbed a trail providing views of older pandas as they munched bamboo.

The next day Leo and I drove 20 minutes west to Panda Valley, a hiking area opened this year where visitors can get a first-hand view of the panda's habitat. After paying a $12-per-person entrance fee, we pushed up the gorge and admired the scenery: Steep cliffs soared above us and a stream crashed and tumbled down the mountain below.

The four-mile round-trip trail is steep but well-marked, and we took our time to appreciate the foliage and scan distant forests for wild pandas. While seeing a panda in the wild is highly unlikely, Wolong administrators have set up a 74-acre enclosure at the top of the trail where visitors can "track" a panda in its natural environment. For $45 per person, trained guides help visitors find the panda by following recent trails and markings.

For us, the price was too high and we opted instead for a leisurely decent and another stop at the Hetaoping center before braving the roads back to Chengdu.

In their enclosure, Pure and Beautiful were resting. For 20 minutes we gazed at the creatures that have somehow taken on roles -- as symbols of conservation and friendship -- much bigger than themselves.

IF YOU GO

Getting to Wolong:

Most visitors to Wolong stop for at least a day in Chengdu. The China Travel Service, phone and fax: 011-86-28-8626-2949, e-mail lutoolutoo.com, can arrange trips and transportation to Wolong. Buses to Wolong leave daily from the Ximen Bus Station and take three hours to Wolong. Ask a hotel concierge to confirm times and prices.

Where to stay:

A good hotel in Chengdu is the five-star Sofitel, phone 011-86-28-6666-9999, e-mail sofitelwandasofitelchengdu.com. It has 262 comfortable rooms starting at about $120 a night for a double (ask for the discounted price).

In Wolong town, there are many small hostels but the only Western-standard hotel is the four-star Wolong Hotel, phone 011-86-837-624-6888, fax 011-86-837-624-6111. Rooms start between $40 and $75 a night, depending on the season. Discounts are sometime available. The hotel can arrange transportation to the Hetaoping research center and nearby hiking areas, including Panda Valley.

What to see:

The Hetaoping center is open daily from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., with a break from noon-1 p.m. Summer is the best time to visit to see baby pandas and hike. In the winter, snow can make getting to the reserve difficult. Entrance tickets to the center cost $4 but may rise to $10 next year. Visitors can also visit the giant panda museum in Wolong Town, where exhibits about pandas and the local environment have simple English explanations. English-speaking guides can be hired.

In Chengdu, visitors can also see pandas at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Xiongmao Jidi), open daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m. It's best to get there by taxi, for about $5; entrance is $4.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: December, 2006; Peace Corps China; Directory of China RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for China RPCVs; Parks; Wildlife





When this story was posted in December 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:


Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
All Volunteers Safe in Fiji Date: December 9 2006 No: 1044 All Volunteers Safe in Fiji
All Volunteers in Fiji are safe and accounted for. The Peace Corps is monitoring the situation very closely. Volunteers are on standfast but there are no plans for evacuation at this time. Peace Corps is working closely with the US embassy and with host country partners to monitor the situation. Peace Corps is confident that volunteers are not in harm's way. The military seized control of Fiji on December 5 after weeks of threats. Subscribe to our news feed to read the latest breaking news.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

December 8, 2006: This Month's Top Stories Date: December 8 2006 No: 1043 December 8, 2006: This Month's Top Stories
Ryan Morris disputes Borat image of Kazakhstan 20 Nov
PCOL announces Peace Corps News Feed 8 Dec
Michael O'Hanlon writes: Civil War in Iraq? 4 Dec
Dayton Daily News Editor Jeff Bruce retires 3 Dec
John Sherman writes libretto for opera "Biafra" 30 Nov
Carol Bellamy writes: The Hidden Cost of AIDS 30 Nov
Gaddi Vasquez in Egypt with World Food Programme 29 Nov
Bill Moyers writes: Message To West Point 29 Nov
Alejandro Toledo appointed Stanford Fellow 29 Nov
PC to start five new Master's International Programs 27 Nov
Garamendi hopes to reshape role as lieutenant governor 26 Nov
Parents plant seeds of caring for Carrie Jane Dulin 25 Nov
Beth Duff-Brown returns to Congo Kinshasa 25 Nov
Forbes gives Direct Relief International perfect score 23 Nov
Margaret Krome writes: Parents provide a lesson 22 Nov
PC IG investing in case management system 21 Nov
Amy Taylor producing a CD called "NamibiAlive 20 Nov
Chris Matthews interviews Seymour Hersh on Iran 20 Nov
Joe Acaba speaks to Tech students 20 Nov
Jeffrey Stanaway teaches life skills to at-risk teens 19 Nov
Sam Farr's spinach fest 18 Nov
Dodd Introduces Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act 16 Nov

Ron Tschetter in Morocco and Jordan Date: November 18 2006 No: 1038 Ron Tschetter in Morocco and Jordan
On his first official trip since being confirmed as Peace Corps Director, Ron Tschetter (shown at left with PCV Tia Tucker) is on a ten day trip to Morocco and Jordan. Traveling with his wife (Both are RPCVs.), Tschetter met with volunteers in Morocco working in environment, youth development, health, and small business development. He began his trip to Jordan by meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and discussed expanding the program there in the near future.

November 12, 2006: This Month's Top Stories Date: November 12 2006 No: 1030 November 12, 2006: This Month's Top Stories
Michael O'Hanlon writes: The New Congress and Iraq 9 Nov
Amanda Host named new PC Press Director 12 Nov
Shays will reach across the aisle for answers in Iraq 8 Nov
Petri loses chance to become committee chairman 8 Nov
Doyle gets a mandate to improve education 8 Nov
Eunice Shriver spends election night with Schwarzenegger 8 Nov
Donna Shalala writes: Eliminating gender bias in universities 7 Nov
Robert Paul upheld peace amid Afghan war 6 Nov
Carol Bellamy receives humanitarian award 6 Nov
Joseph Opala studies Black Seminoles 6 Nov
David C. Liner named PC Chief of Staff 3 Nov
PCV Matthew Costa remembered 2 Nov
Ethiopian-American community rallied for Garamendi 2 Nov
Christopher Poulos named Teacher of the Year 1 Nov
Peace Corps Writers and the Lost Generation 1 Nov
James Rupert writes: A deadly attack in Pakistan 31 Oct
Hill meets secretly with North Korea to restart talks 31 Oct
Jimmy Carter remembers mother in Peace Corps 30 Oct
Leigh Emery travels world for science 27 Oct
IFAW breaks ground for new headquarters 25 Oct
RPCVs Podcast Around the Globe 23 Oct

Election 2006: Results of RPCV Races Date: November 8 2006 No: 1024 Election 2006: Results of RPCV Races
Chris Shays claims victory in closely watched race
Jim Walsh wins re-election to Congress in close race
Tom Petri unopposed for re-election to Congress
Sam Farr wins re-election to Congress
Mike Honda wins re-election to Congress
Jim Doyle wins re-election to Wisconsin Governorship
Kinky Friedman loses in long shot bid for Texas Governor
John Garamendi elected Lt. Governor of California

The Peace Corps Library Date: July 11 2006 No: 923 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory or leave a message on our Bulletin Board. New: Sign up to receive our free Monthly Magazine by email, research the History of the Peace Corps, or sign up for a daily news summary of Peace Corps stories. FAQ: Visit our FAQ for more information about PCOL.

Chris Dodd's Vision for the Peace Corps Date: September 23 2006 No: 996 Chris Dodd's Vision for the Peace Corps
Senator Chris Dodd (RPCV Dominican Republic) spoke at the ceremony for this year's Shriver Award and elaborated on issues he raised at Ron Tschetter's hearings. Dodd plans to introduce legislation that may include: setting aside a portion of Peace Corps' budget as seed money for demonstration projects and third goal activities (after adjusting the annual budget upward to accommodate the added expense), more volunteer input into Peace Corps operations, removing medical, healthcare and tax impediments that discourage older volunteers, providing more transparency in the medical screening and appeals process, a more comprehensive health safety net for recently-returned volunteers, and authorizing volunteers to accept, under certain circumstances, private donations to support their development projects. He plans to circulate draft legislation for review to members of the Peace Corps community and welcomes RPCV comments.

He served with honor Date: September 12 2006 No: 983 He served with honor
One year ago, Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul (RPCV Kenya) carried on an ongoing dialog on this website on the military and the peace corps and his role as a member of a Civil Affairs Team in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have just received a report that Sargeant Paul has been killed by a car bomb in Kabul. Words cannot express our feeling of loss for this tremendous injury to the entire RPCV community. Most of us didn't know him personally but we knew him from his words. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was one of ours and he served with honor.

Meet Ron Tschetter - Our Next Director Date: September 6 2006 No: 978 Meet Ron Tschetter - Our Next Director
Read our story about Ron Tschetter's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was carried on C-Span. It was very different from the Vasquez hearings in 2001, very cut and dried with low attendance by the public. Among the highlights, Tschetter intends to make recruitment of baby boomers a priority, there are 20 countries under consideration for future programs, Senator Dodd intends to re-introduce his third goal Peace Corps legislation this session, Tschetter is a great admirer of Senator Coleman's quest for accountability, Dodd thinks management at PC may not put volunteers first, Dodd wants Tschetter to look into problems in medical selection, and Tschetter is not a blogger and knows little about the internet or guidelines for volunteer blogs. Read our recap of the hearings as well as Senator Coleman's statement and Tschetter's statement.

Peace Corps' Screening and Medical Clearance Date: August 19 2006 No: 964 Peace Corps' Screening and Medical Clearance
The purpose of Peace Corps' screening and medical clearance process is to ensure safe accommodation for applicants and minimize undue risk exposure for volunteers to allow PCVS to complete their service without compromising their entry health status. To further these goals, PCOL has obtained a copy of the Peace Corps Screening Guidelines Manual through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and has posted it in the "Peace Corps Library." Applicants and Medical Professionals (especially those who have already served as volunteers) are urged to review the guidelines and leave their comments and suggestions. Then read the story of one RPCV's journey through medical screening and his suggestions for changes to the process.

The Peace Corps is "fashionable" again Date: July 31 2006 No: 947 The Peace Corps is "fashionable" again
The LA Times says that "the Peace Corps is booming again and "It's hard to know exactly what's behind the resurgence." PCOL Comment: Since the founding of the Peace Corps 45 years ago, Americans have answered Kennedy's call: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." Over 182,000 have served. Another 200,000 have applied and been unable to serve because of lack of Congressional funding. The Peace Corps has never gone out of fashion. It's Congress that hasn't been keeping pace.

PCOL readership increases 100% Date: April 3 2006 No: 853 PCOL readership increases 100%
Monthly readership on "Peace Corps Online" has increased in the past twelve months to 350,000 visitors - over eleven thousand every day - a 100% increase since this time last year. Thanks again, RPCVs and Friends of the Peace Corps, for making PCOL your source of information for the Peace Corps community. And thanks for supporting the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

History of the Peace Corps Date: March 18 2006 No: 834 History of the Peace Corps
PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.


Read the stories and leave your comments.






Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Contra Costa Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; Parks; Wildlife; Pandas

PCOL35609
62


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: