If you are an animal-lover, than volunteer in China in the Panda Conservation Project and help to save these endangered animals! The majestic giant panda is a well-known symbol of modern China and the Chinese government has been working on panda conservation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) since 1980. Yet due to habitat loss, industrialization, a low birthrate, poaching, among other factors, the giant panda is endangered and faces possible extinction. It is estimated that the current population of wild giant pandas is around a measly 1,000. The majority of these live in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Sichuan.
Rustic Volunteer and Travel partners with the Ya’an Panda Conservation Center about 2 hours outside of Chengdu, which was established in 2003 and looks after over 80 giant pandas in 76 hectors of land. Volunteers can work at this conservation center and be in direct contact with these noble animals. The conservation center needs your help in daily activities to ensure that these animals have a healthy future. This is a great way for volunteers to work with rare animals, learn about Chinese culture and travel to a beautiful and exciting country.
As a volunteer in the panda conservation, every day will be different and rewarding. Rustic Volunteer and Travel’s in-country coordinator partners with a permanent project staff to arrange your volunteer experience. There are a variety of ways you can help, but duties may include:
- Feeding the animals
- Providing drinking water
- Cleaning animal enclosures
- Bathing the animals
- Observing animals and collecting behavior documentation
- Giving animals physical examinations
- Doing type-B ultrasound checks
- Carrying out artificial insemination
- Giving birth to cubs
- Maintaining center repairs including landscaping, construction and in general.
- Directing conservation center tours during tourist season
- Supporting administrations with data entry, office tasks, website editing, etc.
- Creating marketing materials and brochures
- Teaching tourists about the conservation center
- Teaching English to the Chinese staff
Typical Daily Schedule at the Ya’an Panda Conservation Center:
8:30-10:00 am: Clean panda living spaces both indoor and outdoor; give the pandas their breakfast of bamboo and panda cakes. These activities will typically take a little over an hour, depending on weather conditions, etc.
10:00-11:30 am: Feed pandas again: carrots, apples, panda cakes, etc.
11:30 am-14:30 pm: Volunteer break time: you may go back to the hostel, rest, etc.
14:00 pm: Afternoon feeding of panda cakes and carrots
15:30 pm: Final feeding of bamboo and panda cakes
Please note: this schedule is an example and is subject to change depending on the needs of the center, projects and field conditions.
There are no specific arrangements during the evening time. The hostel does not have internet, so please bring books or other items for entertainment. There is Mandarin television and you will have plenty of time to interact with fellow volunteers.
About Chengdu and Ya’an:
Ya’an is part of Sichuan Province of China and about 2 hours away from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. Ya’an is located in the highlands about 1000 meters above sea level, which creates four distinct seasons year around
Most of the pandas in the Ya’an Conservation Center live in individual large cages that include indoor and outdoor spaces. While there are protection fences, the pandas live in large semi-natural enclosures. This way, when the pandas are strong enough to be released into the wild, they will be accustomed to their natural environment.
Public Transportation There are shuttle buses and taxis close by the center. A public bus takes about 2 hours to get to Ya’an to Chengdu and about another 40 minutes in a minibus/bus/taxi to arrive to the Conservation Center from the center of Ya’an.
Please note: Volunteers are responsible for their own travels. Daily shuttle buses go from Chengdu to Ya’an and visa versa, but the last one is at 7pm.
Meals and Accommodations: At the Panda Country Villa, you will receive provided accommodations and three (3) meals a day, which is a 5-minute private walk from the Panda Conservation Center. Each volunteer has his or her own room with a separate bathroom with a western-style toilet, sink and shower. Food will be provided inside the Villa where volunteers will have three traditional set meals typical to China. Vegetarian meals are available upon request.
Laundry: There is no washing machine on site therefore most volunteers do their washing by hand. Please keep an eye on your clothes as they dry or keep them in your room to dry, as the center is not responsible for personal loss of clothing. In addition, you can have your clothes professionally washed and ironed in the center of Chengdu where these facilities/services are available.
Electricity: 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. You should buy a converter that fits all kinds of overseas appliances in advance.
Medical Facilities:This project is close to a local clinic with basic medications, which is about 30 minutes by foot. If a volunteer needs serious medical attention, our in-country staff will have the center send him/her to the hospital, but does not assume any responsibility for the care given and volunteers are responsible to cover medical bills and/or file insurance claims. For any medical emergency, the telephone number in China is 120. Our in-country staff in China can help you in any way possible.
Communication:The Chinese phone system is reliable and mobile telephone services are efficient and affordable. The two main providers are China Telecom and China Unicom. If you want to use your own cell phone, please make sure that it has a universal GPS system; otherwise you can buy a phone for a minimum of about RMB400 Yuan (roughly US$60.00). The SIM card and mandatory pre-paid credit will come up to minimum RMB100 Yuan. Once you have a local phone number, please make sure that you give this number to your parents and co-workers that they can keep in touch with you on a regular basis.
Transportation from Chengdu to Ya’an:We provide airport pick-up in Chengdu for free and will meet you at the arrival gate. We will help you book check into a local hotel if you would like us to, but please note that hotel expenses, meals, personal expenses, etc. are not covered for the time. A nice local hotel will cost $50-100 per night.
Skills and Qualifications
There are no special skills or specific qualifications needed to join 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. 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.
Volunteer tasks: How can you help?
As a volunteer, you will work with the project staff and the country coordinator to structure your volunteer experience. There are a variety of ways you can help! Volunteer options have been fine-tuned over time by our volunteers, the staff at the center and our Country Coordinator. You can choose which animals you would like to work with. You might be asked to assist the staff with administrative tasks in the Center. Your volunteer experience will include teaching English to the staff so that they may better communicate with tourists, translate professional journal articles, write marketing materials, and attend conferences. You could also have the opportunity to teach English in a local primary school. Your volunteer experience at the Conservation Center can include:
- Feeding and watering the animals
- Cleaning animal enclosures
- Bathing the animals
- Observing the animals and noting animal behavior
- Helping with general maintenance and upkeep of the Conservation Center including landscaping, fencing
and other types of repair and maintenance
- During tourist season, directing tours of the Conservation Center
- Helping with administrative tasks of the center, such as data entry, creating marketing materials and
brochures, editing the website, etc.
- Teaching staff English and conversing with them
Other Activities for Volunteers
There are numerous other activities you may be involved in as a volunteer at the Conservation Center. For example, there are opportunities to teach English in the local primary school. The children there are eager to learn conversational English and like to learn English songs and games. In addition, the Conservation Center staff organizes trips to the nearby mountains by foot or horseback when weather is nice. You can also combine this volunteer experience with another Rustic volunteer experience in China such as volunteering in an orphanage, teaching English or working with disabled children. Excursions to explore Chengdu during the weekend can also be arranged.