Wolong Panda Internship

"I learned a lot from working at this world famous Panda breeding centre. I saw how a wildlife reserve functions, worked as a vet assistant, and helped out the keepers and biologists."



Working with the Panda Vets

I learned what being a vet in a wildlife reserve was all about. There is much more focus on prevention and research on captive breeding. At the same time just like with domestic animals, each panda is important, and treated with the utmost care.

  • I was able to assist in two operations
  • I helped out with taking blood samples
  • Analyzed fecal and urine samples
  • Helped out in making the milk concentrates for the baby pandas

Working with the Conservationists

This was probably my most memorable experience, as I went out into the mountains to track down "Xiangxiang" the first captive born panda released into the wild.

  • I hiked up the snowy mountains of Wolong and tracked down Changchang which is radio-collared
  • When we spotted him he actually came running after me, as it was winter and his bamboo was frozen, he thought I was bringing him fresh bamboo. This was actually pretty scary as I suddenly realized pandas might be cute, but they still behave like bears!!
  • Good thing, the conservationists who knew him well, calmed him down, and we were then able to observe his behavior and collect som fecal samples.

Working with the Panda Keepers

panda-feedingThe keepers are the ones that really understand panda behavior and are the first to know if one is sick or behaving abnormally. At the Wolong centre, each keeper has its own pandas to look after and have formed very close bonds with each of them.

  • I helped the keepers bring the bamboo to each panda
  • Would help with the morning and afternoon feed of panda cakes and veggies
  • I bottle fed milk to the baby pandas
  • I helped the keepers with the training

This overall experience was eye-opening for me, but at the same time made me think. Wildlife reserves are the key to keeping the species alive, however, most important is preserving their habitat! Fortunately, UNESCO has named the Wolong reserve which is the part as well as the mountains surrounding it, a "world heritage site", allowing for the protection of wild pandas, snow leopards, and red pandas also living within these limits. BUT, is that enough, for bringing pandas back into the wild?