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Discovering Pandas in China
July 12, 2000

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Time to eat!
Fuzzy, adorable, cuddly and cute...who doesn't love Panda bears? They've become an international symbol of all that's adorable and cute in the world. Yet, there's only one country in the whole world that these living, breathing teddy bears call home, yup, that's right, pandas live right here in China. So, while I'm here, I knew I couldn't miss this opportunity to see my favorite fuzzy friends in their home environment!

I remember how excited I was when my family moved to Maryland, because then we'd be close to the National Zoo, in Washington D.C., where I could go see Ling-Ling the giant panda. But as I grew older, I started getting sad seeing this big creature sitting in a little space alone behind bars. At least here in China, I thought, the pandas must have miles and miles of green bamboo forests to call home.

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larger view
Abeja strikes a pose outside the UN's statue commemorating the panda research base
Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening. Humans have destroyed most of the land they once called home. The forests have been cut down, the air and the rivers have been polluted, and a lot of the original land has been made in to farmland. I gave up on my fantasy of happening upon a sweet little panda resting in a tree somewhere in a forest, and decided to go visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base here in Chengdu.

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Abeja didn't seem to find the bamboo as tasty as our furry friends do!
Abeja, our friend Tine, and I rented some weak excuses for bicycles and set out early in the morning to get to the research base. The ride was unpleasant and dangerous, but we braved the smog, pollution, and crazy traffic, knowing that some adorable pandas were waiting at the other end. Pandas, are generally pretty lazy animals, so unless you want to watch them sleeping, there are only a few hours in the day you can catch them doing something active.... like eating!

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Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh...this is the life!
Soon enough though, they opened the doors to the three cells, and three of the cutest, fuzziest pandas came scurrying out and hurried over to the cut bamboo that lay waiting for them, conveniently placed in the front so all the tourists could get a clear view. Pandas can consume over 20 kg of bamboo in just one day (that's over 40 pounds)!


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