Introducing Wolong Nature Reserve
Wolong Nature Reserve (Wòlóng Zìrán Bǎohùqū; admission Y40) lies 140km northwest of Chéngdū, about four hours by bus (via Dūjiāngyàn). A UN-designated International Biosphere Reserve it’s the largest (200, 000 hectares) of the 16 panda conservation reserves (of these, 11 are in Sìchuān), and one which in 2005 and 2006 the Chinese government dropped more than a half-million US dollars to upgrade.
The Giant Panda Breeding Station (Dàxióngmāo Sìyǎng Chǎng; admission Y30; 8am-noon & 1.30-5pm) is home to some 80 pandas that have been artificially bred in captivity. Techniques and facilities have improved so much that in 2005 11 females gave birth to 16 cubs; stunningly, and happily, all had survived through 2006. However, there is little chance of seeing a panda in the wild; the pandas have a hard enough time finding each other. In spring, the park is closed so that trekkers don’t disturb the pandas’ hunt for each other during their mating season.
The rainy season is a bad time to be here as leeches take over the park. Summer is the most popular time to visit. Doesn’t much matter, as all year trekking here is fairly tough and the trails are faint. Other animals protected here are the golden monkey, takin, deer and snow leopard. The Park Administration Office in Wòlóng village (also called Shawan), at the centre of the reserve, can give information on hiking trails and researchers at the breeding station (some of whom speak English) are good sources of info on conditions. Be sure to bring your own supplies, including warm clothing.
And if you can’t get here, you can check out the utterly cool ‘Panda Cam’ set up by the reserve on the internet (www.pandaclub.net).
At the breeding station, 6km from Wòlóng village, the Panda Inn (0837-624 3028; fax 0837-624 3014; d Y200) has clean, comfortable doubles with hot showers and heaters. There is also a restaurant in the hotel and barbecue stalls across the road.
Wòlóng village also has a so-so museum (624 6912; admission Y20; 9am-noon & 1pm or 2-5pm), which is useful, however, for maps.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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