Dennis Goodboy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am


I'm back on the mainland - for the third time this year - but I am not tired of this giant country yet. This time my destination is Sichuan . It's the land of cuddly giant pandas. I am the luckiest puppy in the world!

On my first day, I headed straight to the Bifengxia Panda Reserve. Many pandas moved there after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake severely damaged their previous home, the Wolong National Nature Reserve.

During the three-hour ride, I was on the edge of my bus seat leaning out of the window. My new friends could pop out of the forest and wave at me at any moment. After all, the misty mountains are home to about 300 pandas - 30 per cent of the world's population.

These rare mammals share their home with sweet-looking red pandas, snow leopards and clouded leopards. Luckily for pandas, the big cats don't like bamboo shoots and leaves, so the gluttons can have it all to themselves. Pandas eat quickly and eat a lot. They are known to spend about half a day eating.

At Bifengxia, I discovered a very interesting eating habit: pandas first pluck all the leaves from the stalks, hold them in a bunch and then put them in their mouths and chew hungrily. How efficient they are! I especially love how the tiny two-month-old babies chew leaves while lying face-up sunbathing.

It's still a mystery how these animals get their colour - a near-white coat with black ears, shoulders, arms and legs and those black patches around the eyes. Some say the pattern makes them stand out in the forest; others say it acts as camouflage.

Their thick woolly coats keep them warm in the bitter cold winters, but I wonder how they cope in summer. I heard that it can get as hot as 33 degrees Celsius there. I was sweating just trying to squeeze through the crowds to say 'Hi'. I tried to cool the pandas with my Chinese fan - the best buy in Sichuan - to prevent them from getting heatstroke.

I was surprised to learn that pandas are superb climbers, despite weighing 75 to 136 kilograms. They love to sit on a branch lazing in the shade. This is a panda's life, I suppose.

Next, I'm heading to Sichuan's Mengding Mountain where tea was first cultivated. I hope they do a good dog biscuit to go with it.