The Giant Pandas of Chengdu

It was Operation Smile that took me to Chengdu in China. After we spent three tiring but satisfactory days bringing back the smile on to the faces of little children, some of us decided to visit the Giant Panda breeding center at Chengdu. (Officially translated from Chinese as ‘Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding’!). This is supposedly the only place where we can observe the Pandas up close in their natural habitats.

And indeed I did. The animals are cute, cuddly and lovable. I watched a cub play gleefully up and down a wooden ramp, jumping, rolling and somersaulting. (I will upload a video of it some day). Some were grinning as they munched on bamboo shoots, which is their only food.

Pandas have been on the WWF watch list for years with their shrinking habitats threatened by China’s growth and infrastructure. But through dedicated efforts of the Chinese such as this breeding center, their populations have risen back. Three cheers to the Chinese!

For the first time in my life, I also had an encounter with the Giant Panda’s cousin, the ‘Red Panda’ –  a small, fluffy, furry, miniature version of the Panda. If the Giant Pandas seemed lazy & lethargic, the red Panda was scurrying around and gave foxlike looks.

There was a big crowd and I had to squeeze through them to get some decent pictures. Moreover the Pandas closer to the near-fence were always moving, making it difficult to shoot. Since I did not have my telephoto (I don’t carry the heavy barrel when I travel), it was a bit difficult shooting the Pandas which were further away in the enclosures.

So focus on the eyes while shooting animals? Of course, animals are similar to people and the eyes tell a story. But boy, was it difficult locating the eyes of the Panda! The color of the eyes is black so is the fur surrounding the eye.

Btw do you know that one of the reasons the Panda was chosen as the mascot of the WWF conservation movement was to reduce printing costs? It’s all to do with the black and white color of the Pandas! So let’s see how their photos turned up to be.

The due in the cool morning air helped – the photos came out more saturated, else I may not have achieved a decent contrast while shooting these animals. Or so I thought. Leave your comments.


To visit the web page of the research station, click here


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