On the trail of Giant Pandas

About this Adventure



Fact File:
Duration: 12 days
Price: £2,500 GBP minimum contribution




The bamboo-chewing giant panda is one of the most iconic endangered animals in the world.

In the Sichuan province of China, you’ll work up close with pandas cared for in captivity, and help them adapt to life in the wild, so that they may breed, and live longer and healthier lives.

This exciting project takes place over two Nature Reserves. At the Ya’an Bifengxia panda base, you’ll monitor mother pandas and newborn cubs – and may even observe the birthing process for a cub, depending on what time of year you join us. You’ll prepare and deliver bamboo to the captive pandas, and help keep their living area clean. As an Earthwatch team member, you’ll be granted special access to the breeding area and nursery of the panda base, which remain closed to the general public throughout the year. Volunteers on our July and August teams will join us in the midst of birthing and breeding season, allowing them the chance to observe some rare moments that could make their experience truly elite.

At the Wolong panda wilderness training base, you’ll monitor ‘trainees,’ record their behavior to assist with their wilderness training and evaluate how prepared they are to survive in the wild. You may even have the opportunity to put on a panda suit and deliver bamboo to these charismatic bears.

You’ll also survey and monitor wild panda populations in the Wolong Reserve, where you’ll also spend a night camping.

On your last night at the Wolong Reserve, Tibetan and Qiang communities will present an evening fire party with a barbecue and traditional dancing.

Collectively, your responsibilities will work towards the long-term goal of ‘reinforcing’ small and isolated populations of wild panda in the region, through the strategic release of captive pandas. Your experience will last a lifetime, and it could help the giant panda population longer than that!

Meals and Accommodations

Volunteers will be accommodated at three different sites: At the Wolong Reserve, you’ll stay in a hostel, and spend one night camping during terrestrial transect surveys. When working at the Ya’an Bifengxia Reserve, you’ll stay in a nearby hotel. The hostel and hotel both have electricity, refrigeration, and internet access.

You can expect to eat wonderful Chinese food – either Chinese cuisine, or local Sichuan cuisine famous for its spicy flavor. Breakfast may include fruit, biscuits, cereal, hot and dry noodles with sesame-paste sauce, bean-paste omelettes, steamed dumplings, and steamed buns. Lunch may consist of steamed buns, steamed dumplings, rice, noodles, various Chinese dishes, sandwiches, water, fruit and biscuits. Dinner may include fish and meat dishes, vegetables, rice, or other typical Chinese food. Snacks will also be provided, and vegetarian food can be prepared.

During terrestrial transect survey or patrols, all meals and fruit snacks will be prepared in the field.

About the Research Area
Wolong Nature Reserve is about 80 miles northwest of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, and accommodates about 770 square miles – similar to the size of Yosemite National Park.

The landscape is predominantly mountainous. Wolong has 100 peaks over 16,400 feet and has numerous steep and narrow valleys with rushing streams. Situated in a transitional zone between Qinghai-Tibet Plateaus to the west and the great Sichuan basin to the east, Wolong’s unique geography has endowed the reserve with great biological diversities. In addition to being home to 150 wild giant pandas (about 10% of the world’s total population), Wolong houses red pandas, golden monkeys, snow leopards, more than 100 species of mammals, 200 species of birds, and an abundance of amphibious animals and reptiles.

Due to tremendous variations in elevation, more than 4,000 species of plants have been documented in the Wolong region, including many ancient and rare trees, and more than 200 kinds of medical plants. Thanks to the combination of vertical topography and mild climate, Wolong has unique broad leaf forest. Although many of Wolong’s trees are deciduous species, they actually keep their leaves throughout the year, helping the Wolong valley surrounding Panda Mountain maintain a beautiful, green landscape throughout the winter season. From spring to summer, and to fall, Wolong’s forests have an attractive mix of blossoms and tree leaves of various colors. The landscape of rock walls covered with varied vegetation, steep mountains, river valleys, and high country grassland provides an ideal setting for an abundance of outdoor activities such as hiking, birding, climbing, bouldering, white-water rafting, mountain biking and horse riding.

The reserve is part of Aba, an autonomous Tibetan and Qiang region within Sichuan Province. The Qiang people are the main ethnic group living in the Reserve. They are famous for their embroidered cloth belts and crafts, dancing and singing. The reserve is sparsely populated with about 4,500 locals engaged in conservation or as bamboo farmers, plus upwards of 500 China Conservation and Research Center for The Giant Panda personnel.

The second project site, Ya’an Bifengxia panda base is a famous tourist area of stunning wild beauty in Sichuan Province, China. It is about 11 miles from Yaan City, and 93 miles north of Chengdu. This gorge is made up of two alleys in a “V” shape, which measure about 4 and 5 miles respectively. With an elevation ranging from about 2,300 to 6,500 feet, the gorge is famous for its lush vegetation, and waterfalls. There are about 328 species of wild plants here, belonging to 221 genera and 100 families. Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base is situated at an elevation of 3,600 to 3,950 feet.

For more information please follow the link below to Earthwatch.


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