Clients on our recent trip to China, On the Trail of Wild Panda, were rewarded with exceptional sightings of the world’s most iconic, endangered animal.
March is prime time for seeing wild pandas as the animals descend from the snowy mountain peaks to lower ground for mating. Sightings are still rare however and often one only gets to hear the male pandas as they fight each other for mating rights while the females stay hidden in bamboo thickets.
On the first day of trekking in Foping Nature Reserve, a female panda was spotted sunning herself up a tree while male pandas could be heard scraping on the ground. On the third day, a cold front enveloped Foping and heavy snow fell from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The inclement weather did not deter our clients however and it was not long before our Chinese trackers found another female panda seeking shelter from the snowfall and potential male suitors, perched uncomfortably in a tree. As clients stood and watched a male panda came trundling through the undergrowth only 10 metres from where the group stood, moving quickly, spurred on by the scent of the female.
There are conservationists who believe we should give up on the panda and instead channel energies into conservation battles that can be more easily won. Pragmatism may well be the watchword however the plight of the panda has long been symbolic of the threats endangered animals face all over the world, so the repercussions of throwing in the towel on these remarkable animals will be felt right across the animal kingdom. Surely it is far better to maintain the struggle and allow responsible tourism to play a supporting role in the conservation efforts being made.