A number of years ago, when I was studying in Beijing, I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring and see a few more parts of China. On one of these trips I went down to Sichuan Province in South-West China, home to the Giant Pandas as they are officially called. The train trip from Beijing to Sichuan was an adventure in itself, 35 hours on a sell-out train ride in the midst of Chinese new year, a ‘food’ cart that left a lot to be desired and a ‘bathroom’ more aptly described as a hole.
The highlight however, was our visit to the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary, a huge nature reserve surrounded by natural vegetation and not surprisingly, lots of bamboo. UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage Site and a key focus of the Sanctuary is the captive breeding program aimed at increasing the numbers of this highly endangered and notoriously difficult to breed species. Much like Koalas, Pandas seem to be content sitting around chewing on leaves all day, but if you’re lucky you might get to see a baby Panda!
A little closer to home are the Pandas Adelaide Zoo has just welcomed from Sichuan China, which have proved to be a hugely popular. I visited the exhibit when I was in Adelaide a few months ago and was very impressed with their brand new enclosure. One of the trickier aspects of caring for the Pandas is keeping a ready supply of Bamboo. Pandas really know how to put it away, consuming between 9-14kg a day, and like Koalas, they don’t just eat any old variety. This of course raises the issue of what sort of bamboo is used in bamboo fibre clothing. The bamboo fibre we use in our clothing is a different species to the type that the Giant Pandas like. It is also grown for the purpose of harvesting for fabric which is quite a controlled industry in China, with only one organisation having the license to turn the bamboo in to ‘yarn’ which is then sold to companies who produce the fabric.