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Published: August 22nd 2011
Today thankfully we were all on time to begin the day of volunteering and we set off ready for our day at the panda sanctuary which is in the foothills of the Qingling mountains. The drive took about an hour and a half and when we got to the panda place we were pretty disappointed. The place was incredibly run down, moreso than is usual for Asia and the place had a feeling of deprivation and abandonment. There was no real structure in our day, we were briefly shown around in the morning to see some of the other animals they had there, they had golden monkeys, a snow leaopard, black bears and vultures, and all of them lived in small enclosures that were completely shocking to see. We met a Kiwi who was working at the sanctuary studying animal behviour and he told us all we needed to know, that most of the animals were 'depressed' as he called it as the cages they were in were not suited to their needs. The Chinese also throw stones at the leopard and the monkeys, to them it means good luck but for the animals it has caused them psychological damage that is irreversable and has also made them scared and angry. We were disgusted at the place we had been taken to and we were dreading seeing the pandas after what we had already seen. We were taken to see the pandas being fed, and they were also in small enclosures, albeit not as small as the other animals. We were told that the pandas were regarded as 'special' in China and therefore more looked after, better fed and had nicer living areas. The panda that we saw was called Shi Shi and he looked undernourished and completely miserable which made us really sad and not want to be here at all. Also we had been told that the place was meant to be a rehabilitation centre that eventually allowed them to release the animals back in the wild, however the way they were treated here meant they would probably never be able to be re-released.
We headed to lunch feeling miserable. After lunch we had a lot of waiting around to do as there was nothing really we could do. We eventually did some more feeding of a panda called Lu Lu who looked a little happier and we fed her panda milk, panda cake and some apples. After we did some weeding, but that was about it and we left the sanctuary feeling like we had achieved nothing all day. Don't get me wrong it was amazing to see the pandas up close and it was a real once in a lifetime opportunity to feed them and be this close to them, however they looked so miserable that it completely took away anything good about it and made us all feel quite sad in the end. We came home, had some dinner and chilled out for the evening before heading to bed ready for another depressing day tomorrow at the panda sanctuary again.
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