The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is one of the busiest places in Chengdu during the summer. People from all over the world travel there so that they can see giant pandas and red pandas. This last summer I also decided to travel to China to spend time volunteering at the Panda Base. I knew that by volunteering at the Base, not only could I get closer to the giant pandas; I could also help out around the Base using my skills.
Just as I was about to go to the Base for the first time I started having fears about whether or not I could truly be of any help. I realized that my knowledge of the Chinese language and of pandas might not be enough for me to actually do anything. I now know that this wasn’t a big issue since there is always something that needs to be done that doesn’t require specialized knowledge, and that sometimes simply the desire to help is enough.
The very first day I was introduced to an exhibit the Base will be working with for the next three years. It is about wildlife trade and how it affects bio-diversity. For the exhibit to take place though, a survey had to be done about people’s consumption habits and their feelings towards bio-diversity loss. This was the job assigned to us volunteers the first week we were there; we would go around the Base and ask tourists to complete the survey.
After that was summer camp! There were 12 kids aged 8 to 15 attending the camp. My job was to keep them busy and entertained whenever the educators were not there. That meant that die other volunteer and I had to find things for them to do. Their daily program included cleaning up the panda villas and giving mini presentations to the tourists about die things that they had learned. We were all also able to go to the new Base in Dujiangyan called Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding’s Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Panda for one night We slept in tents and learned about how the pandas that live at this Base will slowly be “rewilded”. As a volunteer, I participated in almost every activity the campers did and guided them whenever necessary.
The last week was much more relaxing since there was only office left to do. I was responsible for helping them check English documents and sometimes translate for them as well.
Thinking back on this three week experience, I realize that volunteering at the Base is mutually beneficial for both the volunteer and for the Base. Volunteers are able to gain first-hand knowledge about the pandas, a deeper understanding of how important it is to protect our natural environment and to prevent the bio-diversity loss, an understanding of the reasons why so many animals are becoming endangered and even extinct. This is an experience that I will always cherish and I would most definitely volunteer there again.