One of the major attractions that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Chengdu is the cute and adorable giant pandas. Many visitors dream of touching and hugging these cute black and white bears.
During our research, we have found that many tour companies have been carrying out activities that offer the chance to have close contact with pandas in order to cater to the desires of visitors, including feeding pandas, hugging pandas, and taking photos with pandas. These activities are very popular with visitors to Chengdu.
While we need to do more research into the impact of activities involving close contact with pandas, we find that there are some important factors that have dissuaded us from recommending and offering such activities:
- From the perspective of protecting pandas, close contact activities might cause increased stress for the pandas, who are naturally solitary animals who avoid human contact, and it might increase the risk of pandas catching infections from humans.
It might be true that allowing visitors to take part in panda volunteer activities is of some value to improve awareness of panda protection, and that’s why many tour companies encourage and organize these activities in the name of “volunteering”. But we doubt that non-professional panda “volunteers” or “keepers” are of much help to protect pandas, and may in fact be detrimental to their protection. Panda protection is a professional job that requires certain knowledge and skills. We believe that real protection is leaving panda contact to professionals. That's why we do not suggest non-professional visitors have close contact with pandas.
- From the perspective of safety, it can be very dangerous for visitors to have close contact with pandas. Usually pandas are not aggressive animals and they have not been known to eat humans. However, pandas are easily angered and they belong to the bear family. They have sharp teeth and claws as well as strong jaws and paws, and they are large animals (an adult panda can weigh up to 120 kg or 260 lb!). So, there is a real risk of being hurt by pandas. Some tourists who got close to pandas have suffered terrible injuries. That’s another reason why we do not recommend that visitors get close to pandas.
- What’s more, the China National Forestry Administration has issued a document and announced that it is ‘strictly prohibited for the visitor to have close contact to endangered wild animals’ including pandas since 2015 for the purpose of wildlife protection. Meanwhile, the Forestry Administration of Sichuan Province has also issued another document announcing that it is ‘prohibited to organize commercial activities to have close contact (including photos) with pandas’ and also ‘prohibited to organize close contact with pandas in panda volunteer programs’.
- Also, based on our research, we have found that visitors are required to make a “donation” of 1,800 yuan (about 270 USD) in order to get the chance to hug a panda just for about 10 seconds and take several photos with the panda. This is an unregulated commercial practice. It is dubious ethically not only because of the amazingly unreasonable charge, but also because there is no accountability for the donated money. Panda photo operators have no explanation or records regarding where the "donations" go, and no one is responsible for overseeing these "donations".
- Finally, during our research we have found that most tour companies do not inform customers of the above issues. So most visitors do not know that they have participated in activities that are possibly harmful to pandas, dangerous, prohibited by government institutions, and unregulated. We hope this information is of help to you before you make your decision on whether to participate in an activity involving close contact with pandas.
Based on the above five reasons, Trippest DO NOT recommend that visitors take part in any activities to get close contact with pandas, including feeding pandas, hugging pandas, and taking photos with them.
But what if you really love the cute pandas?…
If you really love pandas, please support their protection by giving them the space they need and by supporting the policies of the authorities responsible for their conservation! Visit them but do not disturb them.