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Giant panda eating, Dujiangyan Panda Base, Shiqiao (Qingchengshan), Dujiangyan, Sichuan, China | by Ministry
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Giant panda eating, Dujiangyan Panda Base, Shiqiao (Qingchengshan), Dujiangyan, Sichuan, China

It was initially a little unnerving to see a panda grasp bamboo with as much dexterity as a primate. Though, as bears, giant pandas don't have opposable thumbs, the sesamoid bone of their forelimb palms has evolved into a pseudothumb giving them comparible grasping ability.


The Dujiangyan Panda Base and Center for Disease Control, operated by the Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Pandas (CCRCGP), occupies a semi-natural hillside location near Shiqiao Village, Qingchengshan in Dujiangyan county, near the Taoist holy mountain of Qīngchéngshān and 18 km from central Dujiangyan city.


A more visitor-friendly name is 'Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base'; it also seems to be known as 'Dujiangyan Panda Ark'.


The 51 ha centre (or is that just the visitor-accessible part?) has a specific focus on panda disease control, prevention and research. As such, the 'nursing home' works with sick or injured wild pandas and elderly or disabled captive pandas.

It also acts as quarantine for pandas leaving or entering China; if you've seen giant pandas anywhere else in the world, they either visited or will visit Dujiangyan Panda Base at some point, as the foreign-born cubs of Chinese-loaned pandas (i.e. all of them!) contractually must be returned to China and the breeding programme.


This doesn't mean that all the residents are ill or otherwise disabled – I wasn't aware of seeing any in such a condition. Many are entirely healthy, as the CCRCGP's disease-prevention initiative involves separating captive populations, containing any outbreaks to individual bases, and veterinary research also needs to study healthy individuals.


The world-famous Chengdu Panda Base (Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, CRBGPB) also has a Field Research Center in Dujiangyan county, seemingly known as Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where pandas are gradually reintroduced to the wild. To avoid misunderstanding: this isn't it.

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Taken on February 10, 2018