People visiting this capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province will one day have the opportunity to up close and personal with one of the world's most endangered species at the world's first panda town.
The 2-square-km project will be part of the planned 30-square-km Chengdu Giant Panda International Ecological Tourism Resort, said Yang Feifei, an official with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
In addition to the so-called panda town, the resort will consist of a 100-hectare giant panda ecological park and a semi-wild giant panda breeding area where visitors can watch the bears.
It is hoped that the town will encourage visitors to spend more time in Chengdu. No date has been set for the start of construction.
At present, it takes visitors half a day to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Panda Breeding. After the town is completed, people will be able to stay overnight, giving them more time to interact with the base's pandas.
They will be able to feed the endangered bears and even work as volunteers, Yang said.
Although the panda town has a long way to go, the giant panda ecological park, which is to be located in the northern suburbs of Chengdu, will be completed and open to the public next year. The park will cost 500 million yuan (US$66 million), according to the Chengdu Cultural Tourism Group.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is home to 62 of the world's 1,590 pandas. Covering about 33 hectares, the base is devoted mainly to giant panda breeding and research.
But the ecological park to be built is aimed at boosting tourism, said Huang Qiang, chief of the marketing department of the Chengdu Cultural Tourism Group, which is Chengdu's only state-owned entity in charge of the promotion of the city's cultural and tourism sector.
"A gigantic maternity ward for pandas is being built. It will consist of panda dens, an indoor shelter area, an observation area for visitors and delivery rooms for the pandas. Covering nearly 3,361 square meters, the ward is expected to be completed before October 1," Huang said.
(China Daily July 11, 2007)