Pandas are absolutely fascinating animals and I have whiled away many hours at Ocean Park in Hong just watching their every move. Sadly spying on these huge, sometimes clumsy creatures is only possible within a zoo enclosure as now spotting a panda in the wild is incredibly rare. I have adopted a panda through the WWF that lives I the central Chinese mountain ranges, but even she hasn’t been seen for 6 years!
Zoos run incredibly important breeding programmes in a desperate bid to swell the numbers, working with likeminded institutes across the globe. So for a glimpse of a panda, you’ll have to make do with visiting one of the zoos on our updated complete list of all 22 places to see giant panda in the world; there are some new places on the list and unfortunately some have been removed as one panda has died and several have been returned to China;
Places in Asia and Oceania to see giant pandas
1. Ocean Park, Hong Kong – My personal favourite place to spot pandas is at Ocean Park (where I’ve been several times now) Home to two female giant pandas Jia Jia and Ying Ying and two males An An and Le Le. Ocean Park features the Giant Panda Adventure with both red pandas and giant pandas in large purpose built enclosures. There is also the Panda Village and Ocean Park actively educates on panda care and conservation via their resource centre. For a special treat, the park allows a limited number of people each day to become stand-in panda-keepers for a few hours, with unique behind the scenes action.
2. Beijing Zoo, Beijing, China – Home to one rather naughty male panda, Gu Gu, who is rather possessive of his enclosure and received worldwide notoriety after attacking zookeepers that entered his pen.
3. Shanghai Zoo, Shanghai, China – New to this list are the pandas at Shanghai Zoo although I cannot find the names of the pandas, how many there are and whether they are permanent residents or a ‘loan’ from another zoo. Check before making a specific journey.
4. Bifengxia Panda Base, Ya’an, Sichuan, China – The giant panda Bifengxia breeding center opened in 2004 and is home to pandas from various places in the world. Females Mei Sheng, Hua Mei, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen and male Tai Shan were all born in the USA and are now housed here along with Fu Long who was born in Austria.
5. Chengdu Panda Research Base, Chengdu, China – The Panda Research Base in Chengdu was founded in 1987 and carries out absolutely valuable breeding research for giant pandas as well as other animals. The center also focuses on education and further conservation, with around 83 giant panda residents currently. Chengdu is hugely accessible and is featured in many mainstream holiday brochures, with an option to visit the center as part of your trip around China. Chengdu is currently home to male Xiong Bang who was born in Japan and female Mei Lan who was born in the USA.
6. Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China – There are approximately 150 rare giant pandas at Wolong which was established in 1963, all within a natural habitat set in 200,000 hectares of the Qionglai Mountains region. In 1980 the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda was set up at Wolong as a joint initiative between the WWF and the Chinese government. The breeding research programme has been hugely successful with at least 66 panda cubs being born. Some 100,000 people visit Wolong each year.
7. River Safari, Singapore – New to the list is the river-themed safari zoo which is scheduled to open on 3 April 2013 and will house a pair of giant pandas. Male Kai Kai and female Jia Jia will, no doubt, be the star attraction and will reside in a specially created enclosure which recreates the climates of the four seasons of their homeland. There will also be an 8,000sq meter field of bamboo grown to feed the giant pandas. The pandas are on a ten year loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
8. Taipei Zoo, Taipei, Taiwan – The largest zoo in Asia is home to the two giant pandas, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, a male and female pair whose names mean ‘reunion’.
9. Chiang Mai Zoo, Chiang Mai, Thailand – There are three pandas at the Chiang Mai Zoo which opened in 1977; male Chuang Chuang, female Lin Hui and female cub Lin Bing who was born in May 2009.
10. Adventure World, Shirahama, Wakayama, Japan – Today Adventure World is home to 7 pandas; the biggest panda family outside China. Including male Eimei and female Rauhin, Aihin and Meihin born in 2006 and Meihin and Eihin born in 2008 as well as cubs born in 2010.
11. Oji Zoo, Kobe, Japan – Female Tan Tan and and male Kou Kou reside at the second Japanese zoo on this list.
12. Adelaide Zoo, Adelaide, Australia – The only giant pandas to reside in the southern hemisphere do so at Adelaide Zoo which welcomed male Wang Wang and female Funi in November 2009. The pair are also on a ten year loan agreement.
Giant pandas in North America
13. National Zoo, Washington, USA – Visitors can receive free entry to this zoo which was founded in 1889 and is today home to female and male Tian Tian. The two pandas live in the Giant Panda Habitat and are on loan until 2015 and the zoo participates in essential panda breeding research with two cubs born.
14. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California, USA – Home to female Bai Yun and male Gao Gao and a new male panda cub Yun Zi who was born in July 2012. The zoo in Balboa Park houses over 3,700 animals from more than 650 different species. You can watch the San Diego Panda Club video below which shows Yun Zi (aged just 54 days) going through his regular check up!
15. Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, USA – Home to four giant pandas including female Lun Lun and males Yang Yang, Xi Lan and Po who was born in November 2010.
16. Memphis Zoo, Memphis, Tennessee, USA – This zoo has two giant pandas; male Ya Ya and female Le Le who live in the three acre space with around 3,500 other animals from around the world.
17. Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo, Canada – New to the list are the joint recipients of two pandas; male Er Shun and female Ji Li. The pair will share their 10 years in Canada evenly between Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo when they arrive in 2012. Check before making a special journey however!
18 Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City, Mexico – This zoo houses three female giant pandas, Xiu Hua, Shuan Shuan and Xin Xin.
Giant pandas in Europe
19. Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, UK – Giant pandas returned to the UK in December 2012 (see the first video above) with a pair currently residing in Scotland. Female Tian Tian and male Yang Guang which mean sweet and sunlight respectively join the global breeding programme. This is the first time that pandas have been in the UK since a lone female was returned to China from London Zoo in 1994.
Facts about the giant panda
You can help and support giant pandas through the World Wildlife Fund, WWF, who have supplied this giant panda information;
- Giant pandas are officially endangered with just 1,600 estimated remaining in the wild.
- Pandas have lived on earth for more than 3 million years!
- The panda has been the official WWF logo since it was founded in 1961.
- Pandas today live in the Yangtze region of China within the mountains and forests.
- Pandas need to spend up to 16 hours a day eating bamboo and eat as much as 84 pounds every day.
- A female panda is able to conceive during just 2-3 days each year, which is why sharing research from the global breeding programme is so important. Pregnancy lasts for 3-5 months.
20. Madrid Zoo and Aquarium, Madrid, Spain – One of only four places in Europe to see giant pandas is in Madrid where female Hua Zui Ba and male Bing Xing reside and who have successfully given birth to twin cubs in September 2010.
21. Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria – Vienna Zoo houses female Yang Yang and male Long Hui who were both born in Wolong in 2000. They successfully gave birth to male Fu Long in 2007 and also male Fu Hu in 2010. Fu Hu has returned to China and was the first giant panda in 25 years to be born within Europe.
22. ZooParc de Beauval, Saint-Aignan, Loir-et-Cher, Central France – Also new to the list is this French zoo which received female Huan Huan and male Yuan Zi in January 2012.
Note; the Zoologischer Garten Zoo in Berlin in Germany lost their single male panda Bao Bao in August 2012. He was born 1978 and sadly never produced any offspring.
By Julie Bowman