A new resort will be built alongside the world’s largest Giant Panda research and breeding facility in Chengdu, China. The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base already receives nearly 10 million visitors a year, but China is hoping to attract many more visitors with new hotels and attractions as well as expanded habitats for a variety of animals.
The development work is expected to cost at least $70m and will cover an area nine times the size of Shanghai Disneyland, a massive 35 square kilometers. The Giant Panda has always been a key mascot for China and the new attraction will mean more tourists than ever before can see Giant Pandas in a close approximation of their natural environment.
A theme park? There’s themed areas
Officials have been careful to avoid referring to the resort as a theme park, as the focus will still ultimately be on the conservation work and research that supports the future of the Giant Panda.
The similarities are hard to ignore though and a map of the proposed park shows six distinct (or you could say, themed) areas of the resort.
Details of all six areas haven’t been released yet, but there will be a dedicated research zone along with five others including ‘Adventure Valley’ and ‘Hero Farm’. The latter will include a 68 metre high lookout tower that will give visitors a view over the entire park.
What’s in it for the pandas?
The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu is already home to 180 Giant Pandas and a raft of other wildlife including red pandas and a variety of monkeys. The ambition of the resort is to increase the space available for animals to over 3500 acres, with each individual panda enclosure measuring at least 800 square metres.
Chengdu already represents the frontier of panda research and support, the developers have outlined plans to use construction materials that are as similar as possible to the panda’s natural environment.
How close will visitors be able to get?
Enclosures will be constructed across multiple levels to allow for viewing from different angles. There will be viewing rooms in the centre of enclosures, sunken so as to avoid disturbing the panda’s homes but allowing for an up close view.
Alongside a huge estate of viewing rooms the resort will continue to offer panda handling experiences, with a new panda delivery room being created to allow tourists to get closer to the panda babies that are reared and cared for at the research base.
Despite the increased focus on contact between pandas and visitors, experts at Chengdu are keen to stress that the animals’ well being is already put first. The scientists and conservations that work at Chengdu believe contact with people from all over the world is an effective way to further the case for panda conservation, with the ultimate aim of the new resort being to educate people and lobby for the protection of China’s most treasured animal.
What’s next for Giant Panda conservation in China?
Alongside the ambitious plans to extend Chengdu, set to complete in 2021, China has been planning since 2018 to open a Giant Panda National park in the Sichuan Province. The Giant Panda National park would aim to protect a huge area, several times the size of Yellowstone National Park in the USA, ensuring the remaining wild Giant Panda population has a large unbroken area in which to roam freely.