My first encounter with pandas

Authors: Megan Halligan (China Daily)


These beautiful pandas are special animals and I am blessed to be seeing them.
I am 6,433 miles and one giant ocean from home, but seeing the pandas in Chengdu is worth the distance. My husband and I have recently decided to visit the pandas. After being advised by friends that the pandas are more active in the morning hours, we arrive early. We are not the first people here, but as the line forms for the bus ride up the hill, we eagerly decide to walk.
Approaching the first panda area with great anticipation and hopefulness, we are not let down. Sitting quite near us is a traditional looking black and white giant panda. It is breakfast time and this guy (or gal - I'm not sure) is sitting back, relaxing and enjoying his breakfast. As he lays down leaning against a log, he is covered in bamboo. Taking a long stick of bamboo, he first breaks it into a more manageable size and then proceeds to strip off the green outer layer revealing a light inner layer. He crunches on the bamboo like a kid chomping down a pretzel stick. Taking tons of pictures, I squeeze between onlookers trying to get the best view I can. This may be the closest I come to a giant panda and I don't want to forget the experience.
We leave the first giant panda in search of more. We catch sight of several other giant pandas eating breakfast or just finishing up. Seeing the sign for red pandas, we take a quick turn and discover that not all pandas are the same. My whole life growing up I've only ever seen pictures of black and white pandas. Now I am introduced to a completely new type of panda. These little guys are closer in size to a large house cat than a giant panda. They are deep rust red on top and what appears to be black on their legs and belly. With a white nose and white markings on the face, they are adorable creatures. These red pandas are very active, and we are able to catch them on video walking, eating, and nearly fighting with each other. They don't appear to be very social with each other but prefer to be alone as they wander about.
I simply can't take my eyes off them as the keepers approach with breakfast. Unlike the giant pandas, these red pandas don't eat bamboo. They are given some type of food reminding me of cat food. As I said, they aren't being very social. They walk around the food bowls at first, uninterested. Slowly, each panda approaches a bowl and begins munching down food. Unfortunately, there are only three bowls for four pandas. As the fourth panda cautiously approaches, he is frightened away by a panda unwilling to give up his food. This causes a great disturbance, and he is eventually able to apprehend one of the other food bowls. After eating, some continue playing around while others climb up into the narrow branches above and, with arms hanging down, settle down for a nap.
These beautiful pandas are special animals and I am blessed to be seeing them.

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