23 Giant Panda Cubs Make Debut In Chengdu

Inside China's Panda-Breeding Base

With more than 150 pandas, this center has clearly achieved some success.

China’s Sichuan Province is known as the Panda Nation, with its dozens of research bases and natural reserves focusing on the conservation of the cuddly animal, which was categorized as endangered in the ‘90s and numbers fewer than 2,000 in the wild today. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, just 45 minutes north of Sichuan’s capital, offers visitors a rare chance to fawn over the fluffy bears while learning about China’s efforts to keep them on the map.
(Pictured above: 23 giant panda cubs born in 2016 make their public debut at the research base.)

Say Bamboo! VCG/VCG via Getty Images Say Bamboo! Founded in 1987 with just six giant pandas rescued from the wild, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding now boasts 176 pandas and hundreds of other endangered species like red pandas and black-necked cranes. Here, handlers try to get 23 panda cubs ready for a group photo. Worth the Trip Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Worth the Trip A short ride from downtown Chengdu, a vibrant city famous for its leisurely lifestyle and tongue-tingling cuisine, the research center only charges 59 yuan (about $9) for admission. Morning Buzz Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images Morning Buzz Although giant pandas can be seen at the base all day, the adorable animals are most active in the morning between 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., during their breakfast time. Room to Roam Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Room to Roam Unlike a zoo, the research center does not lock pandas in small enclosures but instead houses them in open-air pens with trees and bamboos, simulating their natural habitat. That makes the captive animals more active and prepared for eventual release into the wild. Getting Busy LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images Getting Busy It is notoriously difficult for pandas to procreate, given the fact that female pandas only ovulate for a few days each year. Besides that, pandas in captivity are often too shy to mate naturally, and today a large percentage of newborns are produced through artificial insemination. But some breeders are more creative in their efforts — like a Thai zoo that tried to get pandas in the mood by showing them panda porn. Nursery Time VCG/VCG via Getty Images Nursery Time Pandas typically mate in the spring so if you are lucky to visit the center in the fall, be sure to check out the cubs in the nursery. With or without much hair, they are equally cute. Not a Bad Gig VCG/VCG via Getty Images Not a Bad Gig The job doesn't end when the infant is born. Only 1/900th the size of their mother, baby pandas are incredibly delicate. The responsibility of raising the newborns mostly falls into the hands of nurses. Sluuuuurp Suzi Eszterhas/ Minden Pictures Sluuuuurp A 6- to 8-month-old panda cub drinks milk from a bowl. Whoops! VCG/VCG via Getty Images Whoops! Don't worry — pandas climb and fall quite often while playing. And when that happens, they are mostly not hurt, only slightly embarrassed.