The Beijing Zoo has two panda houses where the pandas can be seen: the original panda house and an Olympics house built especially for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The original house has bothh inside and outside viewing, while the Olympics house has a balcony overlooking the pandas’ outside play area.
Pandas are originally from south China and eat primarily bamboo. As south China developed, the bamboo fell prey to man’s activities, and the pandas were pushed into the mountains. The panda is on the international endangered species list because so few of them survive in the wild. China is partnering with other countries in breeding programs to ensure the survivability of the giant pandas.
The Panda Is a Symbol of China
Because these black and white bears are perceived as being cute and cuddly, they are replacing fierce fire-spewing dragons as the symbol of China. However, pandas have been known to attack strangers who intrude on their territory.
The Beijing Zoo also has red pandas, which look a lot like raccoons. Zoo visitors rarely give these a glance as they rush to the panda pavilion.
The Beijing Zoo underwent extensive remodeling for the 2008 Olympics. It now resembles a park with wide walkways, meandering canals, lakes and large shade trees. Animal living conditions have been improved but are still not up to par with zoos of other major international cities such as Seattle where Woodland Park Zoo provides plenty of room for animals to roam in re-created native habitat.
Zoo Has 7,000 Animals
Still, zoo conditions are a lot better than they were a few decades ago. In 1949, the zoo had only 12 monkeys, two parrots and an emu. Now it has the usual complement of lions, tigers, elephants and hippos, birds and reptiles. It has more than 7,000 animals belonging to about 600 species.
The zoo has much more than pandas. In addition to the other animals, it’s possible to catch a canal boat for a ride to the Summer Palace. But the biggest non-panda draw is the Beijing Aquarium which is the world’s largest inland aquarium. It’s located in the northwest corner of the zoo and, like the panda house, requires a separate admission. However, it’s possible to buy a combination ticket which admits visitors to all attractions, except the canal boat ride. The combination ticket costs about $21 per person.
The Beijing Zoo is located at 137 Xizhemenwai Dajie, a few minutes walk west of the Xizhemen subway transfer station. It is open year ‘round daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer months, closing at 5 p.m. in the winter months.