Dedicated to giant panda care, China’s Dujiangyan Panda Base, set near Chengdu in the Sichuan province, focuses on rehabilitation, disease prevention, and public education, all to conserve the endangered giant panda. Although the species is one of the rarest in the world with a global population of less than 3,000 individuals in the wild and in zoos, it’s possible to spot dozens of the monochromatic bamboo eaters at the panda base—most are being cared for as elderly, disabled, sick, injured, or vulnerable wild pandas on the road to recovery, but some are healthy, including several in quarantine before and after they leave the country.
Visitors to the research center can volunteer for a day, and once you’re outfitted in work garments and after a physical exam to ensure you’re safe to work with the fragile bears, you can alongside dedicated panda experts to observe and record animal behavior, clean enclosures, prepare food for the pandas, and simply explore the base. Supervised photo opportunities with pandas require additional fees (1800 RMB per person) that go toward supporting research at the base. All panda interactions are closely monitored by trained staff.
The sprawling 126-acre site is divided into six separate zones dedicated to various areas of research and care. Guests will find 40 sets of enclosures, a panda hospital, a medical lab, and an educational center with a small auditorium and interactive displays covering the center’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
The Dujiangyan Panda Base is about 34 miles (55 km) from Chengdu city center. Advance booking of most tours and activities at the base is essential, as a daily limit of 30 volunteers is implemented.