The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, as an advanced environmental conservation entity on the “Global Top 500” of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is not only vigorously researching giant panda breeding, but also fully utilizing rich educational resources on science popularization and talent superiority to conduct conservation education. Educating on the concept of biodiversity conservation represented with rare and endangered species such as the giant panda to the public at home and abroad is an important social function to the Base, and it has become a leading educational institution in the world and has won many honorary titles such as the National Popular Science Education Base, National Youth Education Base for Science and Technology, National Environmental Conservation Popular Science Base, and Advanced Unit of Popular Science Education and Ecological Protection for Sichuan Province and the City of Chengdu.
At the end of the 1990s, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding realized that relying on researchers and wildlife conservation institutions alone was not enough to retrieve endangered species. It has been recognized by the world that education is one of the most effective means of biodiversity conservation. Only through educating and encouraging the general public to actively participate in conservation cause and make changes in their daily behaviors can the environment be fundamentally improved.
Based on the in-depth understanding on the status of conservation and education surrounding it, the Base took the lead in introducing foreign advanced conservation education concepts and methods into China’s zoological garden system. In 2000, the first Conservation Education Department was established in China and was gradually staffed with professional and full-time educators, a total of 23. It is the earliest and largest education department in China's zoo system and sets the first example of establishing a conservation education department in endangered animal conservation research institutions of China. Over the years, in cooperation with foreign zoos and environmental education institutions, the Base has absorbed many advanced concepts and strived to improve the education quality of its conservation team. At present, a series of talent training programs have been launched with the joint effort of the Base and other cooperative universities including the Zoo Atlanta in the United States, the University of Denver in the United States, the School of Tourism of the University of Queensland in Australia, and the Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom. By introducing foreign experts, conducting international cooperation, and carrying out joint training, the Base's conservation education team plays an increasingly important role in textbook compilation, project research, activity development, and magazine editing.
In order to effectively research and implement conservation education and create conditions for the conservation education teams, the Base has made great efforts to develop, integrate and construct educational resources.
In terms of hardware resources, it integrates and utilizes its own superior resources in the conservation of giant pandas, such as environment, population, scientific research, venues, and tourists. For example, an ecological park of more than 1,500mu, the largest artificially-bred and captive giant panda population in the world, advanced resources for giant panda scientific research, and millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year in the Base have created conditions for robust conservation education. Besides the first special museum in the world focusing on the conservation of endangered animals such as giant pandas and the venue with a rich collection of vertebrates, the Base has also built satellite education venues such as the Panda Story Cinema, Panda Scientific Discovery Center, Giant Panda Hospital, and Giant Panda Kitchen. Its official website www.panda.org.cn, WeChat public account Panda Academy, and magazine Giant Panda have become new platforms for conservation education. In addition, experts and hardware resources of domestic and foreign cooperative institutions are also shared and utilized in conservation education. At the same time, in order to adapt to the developments in conservation education, the Base also showcases its originality in the construction of an environmental atmosphere. It has successively designed and completed the establishment of ecological road signs, warnings on eco-environmental conservation, and bionic tourist rest spots covering the entire Base. It has also constructed ecological garden sketches and recently renovated and remodeled roads, scenic spots, etc. to be more harmonious with local conditions.
In terms of software, the priority is establishing cooperation networks with experts and institutions in education and animal conservation at home and abroad to absorb advanced international educational concepts, experience, and educational technology support.
The concepts behind conservation education are the essential guidelines for advancement in this field. For a long time, the Base has attached great importance to the renewal and development of educational concepts, avoiding the formalism and doctrinarism of educational activities due to backward concepts and the dull and dry lectures regurgitating knowledge. In view of the fact that adults and children in this modern society have rare chances to get close to nature, the emphasis is placed on building connections, interactions, and practice and helping them to establish an emotional tie between human beings and nature, so as to achieve the effect of understanding and enjoying acts in an environmentally-friendly way.
Therefore, the Base’s conservation education team can educate the public from three aspects when carrying out a variety of educational programs and activities. Firstly, convey the correct information at a conscious level to encourage people to be aware of biodiversity; secondly, stimulate the target group to concern more about biodiversity and animal welfare at the emotional level; thirdly, improve their abilities and skills in solving problems at the behavioral level, inspiring people to change their behaviors. At the same time, aiming at different educational objects such as children and adolescents, teachers, parents, tourists, college students, community residents, and staff of the reserves, different educational methods are designed and employed. What’s more, emphasis is also placed on the integration with school curriculum, incorporating conservation education into school’s moral education and social practices.