In 2001 our associate, friend and partner in Beijing and oureselves were the first to set up a Panda Volunteer Tour. Our associate worked for over a year with the Chinese Government to put together a responsible tour to help the panda program. Once everything was in place our groups, limited from 10 to 14 participants, were keen animal enthusiasts and came to work for a week to help fund the breeding program at the old Wolong which was destroyed in the earthquake of 2008. Many of those who came adopted a panda, often not only once but several times. Some brought medical equipment and medications and other necessary and useful equipment to donate to the center. Our tour was the only all-inclusive panda volunteer tour offered. We would do two or three tours a year all designed to benefit the pandas and the Research Center in Wolong and later in Bifengxia and Dujiangyan. Of course, we had to make a profit, every business does, but we kept it to a necessary minimum. At the end of each tour we gave a big dinner party for all the staff in Wolong. It was something very special for our “Masters” the keepers with whom we worked, who had little in the way of entertainment in remote little Woolong.
In time other tour operators began to copy us, but not in the way we did our tours, rather on short day tours, some adding a day or two here with volunteer work. But the majority are the quickie day tours, it is a mass tourism, an easy source of making money for local Chinese and American and European tour operators. These relatively expensive tours where people hold a panda for a couple minutes have got a rather unfavorable reputation.
We do not want to be associated with this kind of panda tourism and therefore no longer offer our Panda Tours.
We want to thank all of those who have travelled with us and who have helped the pandas to bring them back to where they have been taken off the endangered list and put on “vulnerable” list. But is mass panda tourism a good thing? A panda ís not on this earth to be held by dozens of tourists each day who are not interested in working with the pandas, just have a picture taken holding one for a quick profit. Pandas are wild animals and not circus attractions. We sincerely hope that the panda bases will realize this and curb this practice by profit-minded agencies.
We are however, excited about the program at the New Wolong Panda Research Center which focuses on methods to return young pandas back to the wild.
Last but not least we want to thank Mr. Wei, the director of the old Wolong and of the Dujiangyan Base when it opened, for being a mentor to us and teaching us much about the pandas. And of course we have to thank Joe Zhou for being our associate and making sure that each of our panda tours was the best there could be and a never to be forgotten experience.
if anyone would ever want to experience a panda tour as those we had offered just drop us a note to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a private tour for you.
More pictures will be posted in the near future.
In 2016 we added a day trip to the Moon Bear Foundation near Chengdu. A sanctuary for crippled and sick black bears with a distinctive moon-shaped crescent across their chest who have been abused for centuries to have their bile collected for supposedly healthful properties. This practice is no longer allowed now, but it goes on illegally. Below some pictures of a small group of zoo keepers from New York state who visited there two years ago.