For many, it's the contest prize of a lifetime: the chance to work on a panda reserve as a "Pambassador," or Panda Ambassador. Twelve lucky finalists flew to the Chengdu Panda Reserve and Breeding Center in Sichuan, China, to compete for six Pambassador positions. For one week, they'll compete to learn all they can about China's most beloved endangered species, and prove themselves as ambassadors for the animals.
Giant pandas can only be found living in the wild on mountain ranges in central China. The Chengdu Panda Reserve and Breeding Center in Sichuan province, visited by CBS News on Sept. 24 and 25, 2010, is home to 97 captive pandas, making it the world's largest captive panda population.
Giant pandas' diet consists almost entirely of bamboo. Wild pandas spend up to 17 hours every day searching for their favorite plant, while captive pandas spend 10 hours eating. Adult bears eat about 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo daily.
The large bears spend another 12 hours a day snoozing.
Pandas are notoriously bad at mating, and infant pandas have trouble surviving in the wild. Chinese researchers have spent years perfecting panda breeding techniques and many more panda cubs are being born every year.
These giant panda cubs are between two and three months old. The Chengdu reserve has already witnessed 11 panda births in 2010.
By the time a panda reaches its first birthday, it generally weighs about 100 pounds. Here, CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton feeds Qi Qi his favorite snack - bamboo coated with honey.
Visitors to the Chengdu reserve must wear protective clothing to protect the pandas from illnesses.
CBS News cameraman Brad Simpson gets as close as possible to a 1-year-old panda.
Tourists can't help but get involved, and are encouraged in the panda-monium at the Chengdu reserve.
Wild pandas' natural habitat is shrinking fast. Road construction in the habitat isolates panda groups from one another, making it difficult for the bears to find new sources of bamboo or to breed with one another.
Conservationists hope that by encouraging visitors to appreciate the beauty of captive pandas, it will fuel efforts to protect the habitat of their wild siblings.