China on hand to provide panda consolation

2nd Sep 2013

Panda-loving wildlife enthusiasts on specialist tours can find solace in China - should a historic birthing event at Edinburgh Zoo transpire to be a false alarm.

Tickets to the Scottish zoological facility are selling out, courtesy of the possibility of Britain's first such cub being born.

There are many excellent places to see pandas in China for holidaymakers prepared to travel further to observe the animals in their home country.

Tourists on city breaks to Chengdu can enjoy what is known as the world's panda capital.

It is where they will find Panda Base, an important conservation and breeding centre and a green oasis.

The base houses more than 90 of the black-and-white bears.

There are also bamboo thickets, pagodas, pools with koi carp and red pandas.

Visitors can view pandas here for most of the year, but this time of year brings the plus of newborn babies.

There are always some in the nursery in late summer and early autumn as pandas regularly have twins.

The cubs, which are at ease with onlookers in Chengdu, can be seen close-up being bottle-fed.

There are homages to pandas everywhere you venture in Chengdu, from taxis with pandas on their bonnets, to the 20ft tall (6 metres) silver statue in the city centre.

Sichuan's giant panda sanctuaries constitute more than 30% of the world's population. Seven nature reserves and nine parks border the Qionglai and Jiajin mountains. These sanctuaries are home to red pandas, snow and cloud leopards too.

The National Bifengxia Panda Reserve, 100 miles (160.9km) south-west of Chengdu, is among the best.

It welcomed pandas from Wolong Panda Reserve, which was badly damaged during the 2008 earthquake.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh panda cub could be born within a fortnight, but zookeepers are still not totally sure Tian Tian, the would-be mother, is really pregnant.

Zoo experts are closely monitoring Tian Tian's condition with the help of an experienced keeper from China.

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