Most towns in the Reserve are situated in wide spots in the road that follows the Pitiao River up into the mountains. Our home base is in Shawan Village, the second large settlement outside of Genda. Shawan is 7 km upstream of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) at Hetaoping, which was the center of all things panda prior to the earthquake.
The hotel where we’re staying reportedly is the best restaurant in town. This makes everyone quite happy.
There’s not too much happening in the village. A quick tour reveals temporary post-earthquake housing, many small shops, clusters of hotel and restaurants, a post office and, parked next to the post office, a temple on wheels, decorated with dragons.
While most of the pandas were moved down to the new breeding center in Chengdu, there are a few pregnant females still at the CCRCGP center in Hetaoping.
This set of females are due to give birth in December. Note to self: come back in December.
While the Giant Panda doesn’t have a thumb per se, one of the bones in their paw have evolved to allow them to grasp bamboo and eat it was amazing dexterity and speed. These ladies can put away massive quantities of bamboo, up to 25 pounds a day.
The grounds of the breeding center still show the scars of the earthquake and the resulting landslides. The slopes above the center are so unstable that while we were visiting, a small landslide came down, forcing us to take a wobbly foot bridge across the river rather than the main bridge.
There is hope that the old breeding center will remain at least partially in operation in the future. It’s in a beautiful location and offers opportunties to the people living nearby. Time will tell.