Chengdu Panda Base covers approximately 600 square miles and is the only place in the world where pandas are in the wild and in a research center. Fewer than 1,600 pandas remain in the wild and 50 of them can be found at Chengdu Panda Base.
Obama started by visiting a group of 5 18-month-old pandas, and she and her daughters were able to feed them using apples at the end of a long stick. Obama even held one of the baby pandas, or yearlings, and described them to be "like stuffed animals."
In her travel journal chronicled on the White House website, the first lady recalls "Panda Diplomacy," which is the Chinese tradition of reaching out to other nations with the gift of pandas. China first offered pandas to the U.S. in 1972 and they were housed in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and Chinese pandas have been present there ever since. This includes the panda cub Bao Bao born there last August.
"I believe that this history is instructive for us today." says Obama in the journal entry, "It shows that even for nations as big, complex and different as the United States and China, small gestures can mean a great deal."