Work with Panda Conservation in China (Ya'an)
The ceremonial giant panda needs your help! This gorgeous creature and well-known symbol of China faces extinction, as only an estimated 1000 are left in the world. Many factors are assaulting the giant panda's survival: habitat loss, industrialization, a low birthrate and a history of poaching. For this reason, IFRE is partnering with an environmentally friendly organization in Ya'an, about two hours outside of Chengdu. The Ya'an Panda Conservation Center cares for over 80 pandas and over a land of 76 hectors. When you volunteer with the Giant Panda project, you have direct contact with these splendid animals as you work at this conservation center. Volunteers will help the center provide daily treatment, maintenance and love to the pandas so they may live long prosperous and happy lives as a species.
There are no special skills or specific qualifications needed to join IFRE's Panda Conservation volunteer project except for medical requirements. Volunteers need to have a love of animals, an interest in wildlife conservation and remember that flexibility and patience work best as a volunteer.
The conservation center requires that all participants in the program provide their immunization records or a physical exam record that is no more than three (3) months old. Make sure to bring all original results in paper format with you. You can wait until you arrive to China and our in-country staff will help you with a medical check-up for an extra $100 on top of your program fee, paid to our in-country coordinator directly in cash.
Every day is a new adventure when working with Giant Pandas! This volunteer project is very hands-on and you will interact directly with the pandas. Volunteers work with the permanent project staff and in-country coordinators to structure your volunteer experience. There are varieties of ways you can help! Your volunteer experience at the Ya'an Panda Conservation Center might include:
- Feeding and watering the animals
- Cleaning animal enclosures
- Bathing the animals
- Helping with basic medical treatments
- Helping with artificial insemination, ultrasounds and births of cubs
- Animal observation and behavior documentation
- General maintenance and center repairs including landscaping, fencing, etc
- Directing Conservation Center tours during tourist season
- Center administration support: data entry, marketing materials and brochure development, website editing, etc.
About Chengdu and Ya'an:
Ya'an is located in the Sichuan Province of China, about 2 hours away from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Ya'an sits in the highlands of China, about 1000 meters above sea level. The local climate has 4 distinctive seasons. Most pandas living in the Ya'an Conservation Center live in large personal cages with both indoor and outdoor spaces. The pandas live in large semi-natural enclosures protected by a fence. This way, the pandas can adjust to a natural environment before being released into the wild.
Transportation is easily accessible from the center. By bus/taxi/shuttle bus, it takes about 40 minutes to get into the Ya'an center from the project and about another 2 hours to arrive in Chengdu. Please note: Volunteers are responsible for their travel expenses and free time. The last shuttle to Ya'an from Chengdu is at 7 p.m.
Volunteers will have evening time to spend as they please. Please be aware that the hostel does not have Internet, so please bring books and/or entertainment. There is TV, but the channels are in Mandarin. Normally volunteers enjoy their time together.
Meals and Accommodations:
You will receive provided accommodations and three (3) meals a day inside the Panda Country Villa, which is a 5-minute private walk from the Panda Conservation Center. Volunteers each have their own room with a separate bathroom with a western-style toilet, sink and shower. Traditional Chinese meals will be provided inside the Villa. Vegetarians may request special meals.
There is no washing machine on site therefore; volunteers are responsible for looking after their own clothes and washing them by hand. You can also travel to Chengdu to have your clothes professionally washed and ironed.
Electricity in China is 220 Volts. If you come to China with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter, which you should buy in advance.
This project is about 30 minutes walking from a local clinic with basic care. Our in-country staff and the center with send volunteers in need of urgent care to a hospital. Please keep in mind we do not take responsibility for volunteer healthcare costs. Volunteers are responsible for medical bills and insurance claims. For any medical emergency, the telephone number in China is 120. Our staff will always be there to help you in case of an emergency.
Phones in China are reliable and cheap. The two main providers are China Telecom and China Unicom. If you want to use your own cell phone, please make sure that it is compatible with Chinese providers. You can also buy a phone for a minimum of about RMB400 Yuan (roughly US$60.00). A SIM card and mandatory pre-paid credit will cost you a minimum of RMB100 Yuan. Be sure to share your number with your friends, family and in-country staff so that you may be easily contactable.
Please provide a typical day volunteering at the Panda Conservation:
- 8:30 – 10:00 am – Volunteers will clean panda living (indoor and outdoor) and give the pandas their breakfast of bamboo and panda cakes. Depending on weather conditions, this should take a about an hour and a half.
- 10:00 – 11:30 am – Feed pandas their second meal of carrots, apples, panda cakes, etc.
- 11:30 am – 14:30 pm – First afternoon feeding to pandas of panda cakes and carrots
- 14:00 pm – Pandas' dinner of bamboo and panda cakes
Please note: this schedule may change depending on staff needs and current conditions.
Where do I stay? How far is the project from the accommodation? How do I commute every day?
Accommodations are provided to volunteers in a neighbor hostel within walking distance.
What is the name of the project I would be placed?
Detailed placement information is provided to volunteers upon registering to our program.
How many Pandas are kept in the center?
The conservation center is home to approximately 100 pandas.
Will there be anyone supporting us during the project time?
You will be working alongside the staff of the panda conservation as well as having regular contact with your country coordinator.
Do I need to learn Chinese to work at this project?
No, that is not a requirement, although basic knowledge is always helpful.
Do we get hands on experience joining this project?
Yes, you do.
How many hours a day do I need to work?
Roughly 6-7 hours a day.
Do I need to bring any specific thing for this project?
The center requires that all participants in the program provide either their immunization records or a physical exam record that is no more than three months old.
Is this project available all-round the year? If not, when does it close and for how long?
It’s open most of the year with the exception of the Chinese Lunar New Year, for approximately 2 weeks.