Volunteer with Pandas in China
Pandas are some of the most cute animals in the world but the sad reality is they are on the brink of extinction, there are estimated only to be around 1-2,000 alive in the world today. The good news is there are efforts being made by international wildlife organisations to help save these creatures and you can apply to volunteer with pandas and help conservation efforts.
Volunteering Programs with Pandas
Guide to Volunteering with Pandas in China
The first panda center was established in 1987 in Chengdu, China with the aim of helping, rehabilitating and releasing pandas back into a natural environment. This region of China is very close to the pandas natural habitat. Thousands of international volunteers have played a role by volunteering and if this sounds appealing, you can apply to help too.
You will get to learn more about these amazing animals, experience life in a totally different culture, get to see pandas close up and also make a difference to their future. These placements are fantastic if you are looking for for a new experience or you would like to gain hands on veterinary based work! It is also a way for you to do more than just make a donation.
There are several breeding and research centers located in places like X'ian and Chengdu in Sichuan province which you can visit, or if you prefer play a more active role and volunteer. Below you can read more information about working with pandas in China and also apply to one of our featured programs.
Location of Projects
The most popular locations for helping pandas are Chengdu and also X'ian - both in China. You can choose the location depending on your personal preference.
Tasks & What to Expect
At most centers you will need to work around 6 hours per day, 5 days per week with 2 days off and by participating you will get to help with the day-to-day aspects of maintaining the panda enclosures and reserves. You will usually be assigned a mentor during the duration of your placement, this person will be able to provide assistance and guidance to help you through the experience. They will also help to make this one of the most fun and memorable experiences of your life.
- Cleaning enclosures
- Collecting bamboo and preparing food (sometimes this can be hard work)
- Feeding the pandas (a magical experience)
- Providing the pandas with fresh water
- Observing the pandas and helping with research and behavioural information
- If you are there at the right time you might get to see/help with a panda giving birth
- If you have veterinary skills you might be able to help with examinations or give medical attention
- Sometimes you might get to wash and bathe the baby pandas but lease note it is very rare to get hands on contact with the pandas, these are wild animals and this is to protect your safety
- Help with general assistance e.g. admin, office tasks
- Updating websites, social media pages and writing blogs
- Helping create educational / conservation awareness material
What to Expect
Play a part in preserving one of the world’s most endangered and fascinating creatures; the Giant Panda whilst also mixing sightseeing. As a volunteer you can learn all about these amazing creatures and assist with vital conservation work whilst experiencing cultural highlights. There are different panda volunteer programs and tours for different, here is an general itinerary for what to expect:
- Days 1 - 3 - Feast your eyes on the local sights sounds and dumplings of Xi’an, you’ll head to your project. Based in a scenic area over an hour from the city, you’ll take in China’s stunning landscapes on your way to meet the pandas and the other residents of the centre; the Lesser Panda (Red Panda), the Golden Monkey, the Sika, the Takin and Crested Ibis.
- Days 4 - 7 - Project work begins! You will generally work at the project between around 8.30am and 5pm, you will lend a hand with a range of tasks from feeding and enclosure maintenance to assisting with observation and research, working in close proximity to the pandas.
- Day 8 and 9 - The weekends are yours to relax and explore the local area. The incredible mountains and lakes near to the project are certainly worth a look or you can head back to Xi’an for a taste of city life and a more urban experience of China.
- Day 10 and beyond - For those who choose to stay at the project for up to 4 weeks, you’ll be able to spend a lot more time learning about the lives of Giant Pandas and helping to save the species from extinction.
Prices for these experiences start from around £500 for 2 weeks, these placements are quite expensive due to the difficulty in arranging these experiences with the Chinese authorities. There are no specific qualifications or requirements needed to take part in these trips. However you will be required to have a sense responsibility for other travellers, project staff and local community and most importantly... a sense of fun and adventure!
Most placements are arranged as part of a structured package which include shared accommodation. You will usually stay in a guest house / hostel with other participants - this is a great way to make new friends. A private room can also be booked at an extra cost. Sometimes home stays are available which is a fantastic way to get to know a local Chinese family. China is a very modern country and most places have wifi included.
You can participate anywhere from a one day taster to over 4 weeks. This really depends on how much time you have, we recommend committing for at least 2 weeks because you will get to be given more responsibility and given more tasks.
You will need to be eligible for a Chinese tourist visa to apply, most organisations require you to be aged 18+ but there are special programs for both 17 year olds and families. Sometimes placements can be very hands on and you will need to be flexible, adaptable and be able to integrate into team projects working with local staff and other people from all around the world. You might also be required to provide a letter from your GP to show you are in good health. Remember this is not like your average holiday, you will need to put some hard work in and do more than just watching.
How to Apply
Some organisations will require you to pay a donation or fee to participate. The cost can vary depending on the centre you apply to, most international organisations put together a package which includes placements, accommodation, meals, orientation and transfers. You will usually be responsible for pay for flights and visa. You might also be required to pay a donation - this helps towards the yearly running fee's of rehabilitation centers and paying local staff. To get a paid job with pandas you will need to be a skilled professional e.g. veterinarian and be able to commit long term. You can apply today by searching our featured placements above.