Reports from the Field

Volunteering with Pandas in China!

volunteer with pandas


“So here is some detail of the work we did. I will be open – it is not glamorous but it is so worth it. It is a very physical job. We start work about 8:40. The keeper typically has started getting the pandas inside so we can clean the outside. We scoop up all the panda poo we can find. A nice walk thru their outside enclosure. 🙂 We also clean up and load out all the bamboo from the night before. Around that time new bundles of bamboo will be delivered. Get it moved to where it goes then time to start busting it.  Slamming 10ft stalks to the ground to split it. A great stress reliever! We put fresh bamboo outside before putting them back out.

Now they are outside so we can clean the inside enclosures. Consists of the same. Cleaning up any panda poo and bamboo shoots from the night before. We then sweep and mop the inside. We pull all the trash cans and old bamboo bundles out for the trash truck that will be by in the mid-morning. A morning full of hard work!

About 11am we do our first feeding for them. The keeper is careful to watch each pandas diet. Each one gets a specific size/weight of panda bread. And a huge carrot cut in half. The next feeding is at 2pm which also consists of panda bread and a carrot. And sometimes this feeding or the next will also consist of an apple. They love apples! The apple is where they hide any vitamins that might be required. A panda that is in breeding season may also get a bowl of milk in the afternoon. Cubs get a bowl of milk. They don’t have teeth developed enough to bite into the solid food. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to steal Mom’s! The last feeding of the day is the same but they get 15-20 bamboo shoots for the night.

A panda can typically go in and out as they please. They are only locked in one or the other if there is a specific reason. Like moving them, cleaning or eating. They have huge outside areas with plenty of natural habitat and each keeper loves them and takes wonderful care of them.

– here are helpful tips based on my experience to share….

This is a very rainy region much of the year. Be prepared with rain gear and to work in the rain. Bring things that dry quickly. Air drying takes a while.

You are provided coveralls but be prepared for shoes to get wet, poopy and muddy. Dress in layers under your coveralls.

I truly feel that 2 weeks is perfect. My body was tiring by the end of that 2nd week. Lots of walking, hiking, working & sight seeing.  One week is not enough unless that is just all you can do. I wanted a weekend of free time.

Exchange your money before you leave Chengdu. There is only one bank in Ya’an to exchange money and that is a 30 minute taxi ride to town. And there is only one lady at that one bank that can do it. You have to hope she is there!

The coordinators plan activities for you that you can participate in but don’t have to. We learned about Chinese festivals. How to write Chinese numbers and a few other words. Learned how to play Mahjong and made dumplings. I recommend the waterfall hike down the gorge. I did it twice. Beautiful. Made a couple trips to the supermarket for snacks and toiletries or any needs. Watched some movies in the activity room. Had time to just watch the pandas in the other enclosures that we weren’t caring for.

Met girls volunteering from all over the world. Don’t be afraid to do this by yourself. I did. The coordinators help you plan any weekend activities if you stay over. They write things down in Chinese you might need to ask if they aren’t with you. Mine were Li and Echo and they were fabulous.

It was an experience I will never forget. Worth every penny. I definitely plan to go back. Hopefully several times! Global Nomadic was fantastic and I wouldn’t attempt to do this without their help and guidance. There are too many details in order to travel to China. One other note. There is no Facebook in China. Be sure to setup an international plan on your phone!

I promise if you’re at all interested- you should absolutely do it.”

Panda Care Volunteer project in China


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Valerie Frazier