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http://africa.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2017-06/20/content_29819321.htm ~ This June, 2017 article published in China Daily was written by the Director of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Giant Panda Programme. He notes that giant panda conservation is holistic, with careful management of gene flow between captive and wild populations.
Tom Kellie posted a topic in World wildlifehttp://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/24/asia/china-animal-welfare-kristie-lu-stout/ This CNN report questions China's commitment to protection for such species as pangolins, river dolphins, tigers and elephants. Dr. Peter Li, China specialist of the Humane Society International says: "Panda conservation is not an accurate indicator of wildlife protection work in China". Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, notes that a disproportionate share of conservation funds have been allocated for giant pandas while such other species as pangolins are comparatively ignored.
Introduction I initially got interested in Sichuan (China) as a destination after reading a number of trip reports, most notably, Chlidonias Goes to Asia 2013, Richard Webb's Sichuan report and many others on Mammalwatching.com. The reason I picked Sichuan was because I really wanted to see red panda, Tibetan fox and Tibetan wolf. Guide I decided to book with the guide Richard had used, a British birder Sid Francis who was both our guide and our driver. We came to an acceptable daily fee for my party of two, which Sid has requested I don't disclose as the cost varies according to a number of different factors including season and group size. Sid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for a price. Costs With the exception of bottled water, a meal in Dujianyang and snacks, I paid for everything else, i.e. accommodation (including Sid’s), food, petrol, tolls, park entrance fees etc. We were advised to budget around 800 Yuan or approx £80 a day for these additional costs which proved to be pretty accurate. Where possible Sid took a guide room or cheaper hotel to help keep the cost down. As we were heading into remote areas, Sid advised that we bring cash (including for his fee) and change it at the airport. We were able to drop his fee in at his home in Dujiangyang to reduce the risk of loss on our way back from out first site. Flights We flew KLM from Norwich to Chengdu via Schipol. Flight cost was just over £500 per person. For some reason we had a free upgrade to economy plus on the outward journey, but no such luck on the return! Visas In preparation for the trip Sid provided a letter of invitation from a tourist hotel in Chengdu and a sample “tourist” itinerary for us to use to apply for our visas. We used the visa service recommended by the embassy and I think the cost was around £86 each. There was no secure online payment so I had to send off my card details by post (this hasn't caused any problems). Itinerary We timed the trip for Red Panda, as Autumn is when they are most visible as they feed on berries in the bare trees. For birders, trips are normally made in the spring/summer as some of the charismatic species such as firethroat are migrants. Labahe is the most reliable site for Red Panda and was where Richard Webb and Chlidonias had their amazing sightings. At the time I booked I knew that this site was closed but Sid's expectations were that it would reopen before our trip. He did however advise that if red panda were our key target that we might wish to postpone until the following year. Given the uncertainty of Ian's work, we decided to risk going this year. Sadly Labahe did not reopen, but Sid advised that on his last but one trip he had seen the first red panda of the season at Longcanggou so advised that we should make that our first stop. We kept the itinerary flexible and did not book any accommodation until a day or two in advance for the most part. The other sites we covered were Wolong and Balang Shan then up to the Tibetan Plateaux at Ruoergai and finally down through Jiuzhaigou and Tangjiahe with our last two nights in Sid's home town to visit the not yet fully open Panda Valley centre for giant pandas. Hotels & Facilities Most hotels we stayed in were western style reasonably comfortably city style blocks. For one overnight stop we had a squat style loo. The first stop at Longcangou had a bit more character and was more like a lodge. A few hotels had electric blankets and no heating whilst others did have some form of heating (which varied in it's efficiency!). As a couple we found it difficult to get a double room for the most part and had to settle for a twin. Thankfully the beds are a bit bigger than a single bed so we generally just used one of the beds. Most hotels had good showers with toiletries provided, we both got streaming colds at higher altitude so taking additional tissues was really important as they generally only provide a small roll of toilet paper. Kettles, a couple of small bottles of water and green tea were usually provided. In some cases, a hair dryer is also available. The beds in all but the last hotel were very hard. One thing that surprised us was the lack of any laundry service so it is worth taking more than the usual amount of underwear as the opportunity to dry clothes effectively is limited and given the hours we put in we had little time for such chores. Food & Drink For breakfast Sid generally supplied freshly made toast using his own toastie maker in our room. We generally had snacks/cuppa soup out in the field around mid morning. For lunches we would sometimes stop at a local restaurant for things like noodles in a soup or dumplings in a soup. This usually comes in a spicy broth but can be made without chilli if desired. For dinner this could be similar or we would opt for two or three dishes, usually a meat dish and a couple of sides which were always served with rice. The food was generally very good. In more cosmopolitan areas for a change from Chinese food we went to Dico's (a local chicken burger bar) which was better than KFC, where we experienced poor service on one night. Culture Due to the political nature of China, we were advised to keep our passports with us at all times in case of police checks. I can't stress enough how important it is to be able to take things in your stride in China and remain unruffled. There are some unique challenges with visiting these remote sites where very few westerners have travelled and it helps to have a guide who knows the “proper” way of doing things, even if to a westerner this might not appear to be the “right” way of doing things! More on this as we go along... Tipping Tipping is not expected or desired in China.
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