The Wolong Nature Reserve lies 140km northwest of Chengdu and was established in 1975 specifically for the protection and improvement of the giant panda birth rate. It also breeds pandas to be re-introduced to the wild. Covering an area of 2,000 square kilometres in an alpine valley on the Tibetan Plateau, the reserve is the largest of the 16 panda conservation reserves in China.
In 1982 it became a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. There are more than 4,000 plant species (including 15 types of azaleas), as well as an abundance of bamboo, the food choice of the giant panda. It is also the home of the snow leopard, golden monkey, golden langur, musk deer and red panda.
The giant panda used to be found in nearly all of China’s southern provinces but nowadays the giant panda population is severely threatened and their numbers in the wild have dropped below 1,000. Poaching has been a problem and the spreading of villages into the hills has also added to the problem, as well as deforestation, which has reduced the areas for the pandas to live in. With only a certain type of bamboo from a specific altitude as their main food source, the giant panda is now regarded an endangered species.
Although you can trek in search of pandas in the wild, sightings are rare and it is more than likely that you will only see the captive pandas at the research base and breeding centre.
About 100km northwest of Lijiang in Yunnan province is where the Yangtze River’s upper reaches, the Jingsha Jiang, channel with ...