A Day in The Life of a Panda Hugger

You didn’t read the title wrong; people who hug pandas for a living really exist. Deemed one of the world’s best jobs, China employs workers at the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center to give the bears some tender loving care. Hugging adorable baby panda bears all day seems like a dream but what’s even better is the $32,000 USD salary that these “huggers” or “nannies” are paid a year.

Photo Source: China Discovery

Photo Source: China Discovery

Giant Pandas

Unfortunately, the Giant Panda population has been under threat for years. With fewer than 3,000 pandas out in the wild, the population continues to decline as more habitat is lost. Pandas require a lot of bamboo for nutrition and as the plant starts to fade, so do the animals. So, it seems that Panda Huggers not only have the best job in the world but also one that is extremely important to an entire species. Staff members at the center divulged that many people have done the same job over the years but haven’t received such high salaries. The reason for raising the income is partly to garner more attention for panda conservation efforts as a whole.

Photo Source: Metro

Photo Source: Metro

Located in Sichuan Province, the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center employs people from all walks of life to spend 365 days a year with the pandas. They claim that the main function of the job is to, “share in their joys and sorrows.” They expect most applicants to be white collared workers with minimal experience as the job only requires the panda huggers to be 22 years of age, have the ability to write and take photos and have some knowledge about the species. Aside from the yearly income, employees will receive food, accommodation and the use of the organization’s car.

Photo Source: China Daily

Photo Source: China Daily

Day in the Life of a Panda Hugger

So, what does a typical day look like for these panda huggers? The gig requires feeding and cleaning the pandas as well as the main reason for all the hype, hugging and snuggling them. While the job does seem ideal, founders of the initiative say that the job takes a lot of perseverance. The hours can sometimes be long, and the food choices for employees may be more limited to what they are used to. Giving proper love and attention to the pandas is of primary concern.

While the exciting opportunity to apply for this position seems to be long gone, there is still a chance to experience the panda’s first hand by visiting the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center. In efforts to increase educational tourism, the facilities at the center have been leveled up for a better experience to visitors. Aside from viewing the animals, tourists are also given educational information and tours by staff members, a chance to feed the pandas and their babies and learn different ways that they can help protect the species. There is also a museum on site as well as beautifully landscaped gardens to explore while visiting.

Photo Source: Panda.org

Photo Source: Panda.org

Chengdu

If you are planning on visiting the center, why not make a trip out of it and explore what else Chengdu has going on. Some of the top things to experience on your visit are:

  • Tianfu Square: A public square that offers a water show during dusk and in the afternoon which features synchronized music and strategic bursts of water from the fountains.
  • People’s Park: An absolute hub for experiencing local life in Chengdu. You can watch residents gather to play Mahjong, do water calligraphy, dance and look for potential marriage partners for their children. There are also plenty of places to grab some tea and lots of opportunities to dig into a Sichuan snack.
  • Sichuan Opera: Catching one of these traditional shows is one of the best ways to experience the culture and entertainment in Chengdu. A great place to see a show is at Shu Feng Ya Yun tea house. It’s a local favorite so make sure to book your tickets early.
  • Jinli Ancient Street: Part of Chengdu’s old city, most of the hotels and shops are in the traditional style. Spend some time here and shop around for antiques, sample the street snacks and pop into a couple of bars. While it is sometimes considered a tourist trap, the sites and the overall experience can be really worthwhile. 
  • Jinsha Archeological Site: Visit this newly found area to witness artifacts from over 3,000 years ago. Items on view range from jewelry and art to tools, jade, and gold.
Photo Source: The Telegraph

Photo Source: The Telegraph

While pandas are the main attraction, visiting Chengdu in general is bound to be an interesting time!

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.