Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First weeks at the Chengdu Panda Base

Names: Madison MacElrevey and Miranda Smith
Class Year: Juniors
Hometowns: Lewes, DE (Madison) and Westerville, OH (Miranda)
Internship: Behavioral Research at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Location: Chengdu, China

     After arriving in China, we spent our first couple of days getting accustomed to the area. Then, on Tuesday, we began our internship at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
We met James at the bus stop at 8:30am and waited for the employee bus. Once we arrived at the Panda Base, we went to complete some paperwork. We felt very official because we can use our fingerprints to get into the building where James’ office is located.
After paperwork, James showed us around some of the base before we headed to lunch. Lunch is at 12pm and then the workers take a break until 2pm, during which many take a nap. We have been spending many of our breaks in the Panda Café reading, catching up with friends and family, or just relaxing.
     In the afternoon, James had some work to do, so we were tasked with locating the panda cubs that we would be studying. We later found out that there was a short cut, but the first time we had to walk up a long hill, across some rope bridges, and then back down to the Moonlight house. 
Part of Our Journey to Moonlight house
One of the cubs we are studying
     For the past threeish weeks we have been working on organizing to begin conducting our research. First, we had to create an ethogram, test it out, and then finalize one that we wished to use. We are collecting data using point-time sampling with different behaviors, some of which include feeding, playing, and resting. Probably the hardest task that we have faced so far is figuring out how to differentiate between the pandas. There are ten cubs that we will be studying, all approximately one year of age. It is difficult because they are not all always outside at the same time, so some of the ways that are typically used to tell the difference, such as size and color, cannot be used. So, for the past two weeks, we have mostly been practicing collecting data along with trying to identify the cubs. Some days they are crazy like they had too much sugar to eat, and then other days they have a sugar crash and spend much of their time resting. The Panda Base is working hard to update many of their enclosures. Where the cubs are located, there are many trees and platforms for them to climb, along with a pool.

Can you spot the three pandas?

The inside enclosure for when it's too hot outside


     There are also enrichment items including balls, and a rocking horse. One of the cubs really enjoys the rocking horse. It is a lot of fun to watch how the cubs interact with each other along with their environment, as they are learning how to be pandas.     
One of the cubs playing with enrichment

     It's baby season at the Panda Base, and so far there has been one set of twins born!

One of the twins in the incubator. Who wants to study this guy next year?

     Finally, after much practice, and working out some kinks, we will begin collecting data on Monday!

There are about 60 species of bamboo that are edible of the giant panda. However, they prefer to eat only about 20 of these species. There is bamboo at the panda base, but unfortunately it is not one of the types that the pandas will eat, so everyday bamboo has to be shipped from the mountains. Giant pandas eat approximately 40kg of bamboo each day. There are over 80 pandas located at the base. 80*40=3,200kg of bamboo each day.
Although 99% of their diet is bamboo, in the distant past they ate meat. Their digestive tract still resembles that of a carnivore, which is why they are classified as such.
Throughout history, there have been many names for the giant panda. Some nclude Pi, Pi Xiu, Mo, White Bear, and Iron-eating Animal.
Giant Panda in Chinese is 大熊猫 (Dà Xióngmāo). 
One of the first survival skills a young panda must learn is how to climb trees in order to escape predators. Their predators include golden cats, leopards, jackals, and yellow-throated marten. 
Giant pandas are classified as Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae, Ailuropodinae and finally their genus and species are Ailuropoda melanoleuca.

1 comment:

  1. Finally found the blog site with your & Miranda's posts. Fun to learn more about your internship & time spent exploring near Chengdu.