Pandas! Everyone knows this cute black and white bear from China. Since april 2017 we can also admire the pandas in the Netherlands. Together with other volunteers from the Dutch World Wide Fund (WWF) I got the chance to see them.
There are not many pandas in the wild. Due to deforestation and the rapid human population growth and urbanization, their habitat was getting smaller and smaller. The panda used to be classified as ‘rare’, but it has swifted from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’, which means that it is getting better with the panda.
To protect the panda better, there are research and breeding centres to study the panda and breed them in captivity. One of the centres is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China which I have visited last year.
Pandas in foreign countries
Nowadays you can also find pandas in captivity in other countries. Since 1958 China gave pandas to other countries for diplomatic reasons. The countries could keep them, but since 1984, the pandas were only giving for a loan of around ten years. This april, the Netherlands got their first two pandas. China gave them symbolically to our country in October 2015 during the state visit of our King and Queen in China. The pandas are the male Xing Ya 星雅 and female Wu Wen 武雯. They were both three years old upon arrival and they are part of a special breeding programme to secure the future of giant pandas. They will spend the next 15 years in the zoo Ouwehand Dierenpark in Rhenen, a city nearby Utrecht.The zoo build a special residence for the pandas and it is called Pandasia. There is a Chinese gate leading to building that look likes Chinese palaces. The pandas both have their own indoor and outdoor stay because they are solitary animals. There is a lot of green and also places for them to walk, climb and lie down. At Pandasia you can also find a Chinese restaurant and a shop that sells a lot of panda stuff. It varies from stationary, clothes, bags to a lot of stuffed toys.
WWF and pandas in the wild and captivity
When I visited the zoo together with other volunteers from WWF, we first got a presentation from WWF-colleague Christiaan van der Hoeven. He told us about the activities that WWF does in China to help the panda and how they have spotted the panda, but also what they do to make the lives of the people living in the panda area better. The human population who lives there have a very simple life. In their houses they need to use a lot of wood to keep the houses warm and to cook food for themselves and the farm animals. One of the things that WWF wants to do is provide better stoves for these people, so that they will use less wood from the forest around them.
Afterwards José Kok from Ouwehands Dierenpark told us what they had to take into account when they want to keep pandas in captivity. Did you know how much bamboo they had to eat on a day? It is interesting to learn more about the panda and how they live in captivity and in the wild. I am glad to hear that it is getting better with the panda population. I hope their population will keep on growing!
If a trip to China is too far for you. Come and visit the pandas in Rhenen. Pandas are lazy animals, so don’t expect them to be running around. It was really cute to see them. I actually don’t like to see animals in captivity, but I know it is for a good cause. I hope they will enjoy their stay here in the Netherlands. Besides looking at the pandas, Ouwehands also provide different activities and educational programs to let visitors get to know the panda more. Read more about the panda on their website: https://www.ouwehand.nl/en/discover/pandasia.