Travelogues .............................................................................................................................

Changqing Pandas
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Editor: Belinda from Australia  Edited Date:2006-8-2 21:04:33   Visitors:2842   
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A film documentary crew came to Changqing National Nature Reserve with the hope of filming pandas during the mating season. The previous week a panda tracker had photographed pandas mating, up a tree, so the camera crew waspretty excited.

The crew spent the first three days in the reserve with 8 trackers without any luck. Then on the fourth day it all began to happen. The trackers had found four panda on a ridge line high above them. The call immediately went out on the radio and the crew began the strenuous hike up to the ridge, grabbing at bamboo, scrambling for stability, ducking for passage.

An hour later, the trackers directed the crew to a panda up a tree. It was a female and upon approach, 3 males could be spotted, strategically spread across the gully below her. The crew found themselves a vantage point and began filming.

Suddenly, one of the males made a mad dash towards another male, chasing him away from under the females precarious perch.  The less dominant panda came along side the crew to sit only 5 meters away.  The crew, amazed, watched on as he sat nonchalantly chewing bamboo, while the dominant panda lay sprawled on a log in the middle of the gully, as if to say, "Back off, she's mine".

There was shuffling of pandas for a while, huffing and puffing and stamping of feet. Then the dominant male made his move and sat under the females tree. Then, she made her move which was to come down. Once shed reached 2m from the base of the tree, she launched herself off into the bamboo and cannonballed her way down the hill. The crew was stunned.

The dominant male wasted no time in chasing after her. The sound and speed was stunning, like a bulldozer she split the grove of bamboo, crashing and cracking her way down. When she hit the bottom of the gully she reformed the usual shape of a panda and bounded up the opposite side and over the ridge. It was all over quickly. The crew members blinked a few time, checked each others faces for confirmation and promptly burst into laughter.  They had their footage, it was time to go back to relive the moment over a few drinks and a hot meal.

Day 5. The trackers had decided on a path that happened to be even more difficult than the previous day.  The bamboo grove was more dense and hard to navigate even without packs. The whole day was spent pushing through impossible terrain, stopping periodically to listen to the mating calls of pandas all around. By late afternoon, the trackers had only located one panda but once they made it to the ridgeline, the stage was set for another show.

The crew lay in wait on the ridge, listening to calls similar in sound to a large mean dog or Chewbacca from Star Wars. There was a number of pandas in sight all playing their individual game on chess. All of a sudden, one blindly charged towards the crew through the bamboo thickets. He came within a few meters, crashing, cracking and destroying everything is his path.  The crew was half way up the nearest trees before the panda realized he had human company and took off again down the hill. As quick as it began, the show was over. Another day of successful filming complete, the sun was sinking and the crew was far from home.

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