‘The Hidden Kingdoms of China’ Tells a Sweet Story of Pandas in the Wild

National Geographic/Jacky Poon

I’ve been a sucker for roly-poly, two-tone furballs since childhood, when my family regularly visited a pair of pandas given as a gift from China at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Now, thanks to the new five-part special The Hidden Kingdoms of China, I finally get to see the adorable species up close in their real home: a bamboo forest.

In the first of Monday, March 23rd’s three back-to-back installments (the final two air March 30), filmmakers follow a mother and cub for two years. The latter goes from a teeny 14-day-old nursing bundle, weighing less than 16 ounces, to a confident bachelor 200 times heavier.

The hidden kingdoms of china

(Credit: National Geographic)

Watching Junior grow is a delight as the playful pair tumble down hills, climb trees and flop on their backs to chomp bamboo. (Adults eat up to 88 pounds of it a day, grinding tough stems with powerful jaw muscles that create those irresistibly cute round faces.)

The close and loving relationship is all the sweeter considering adult pandas are mostly solitary. Keep in touch, kid!

The Hidden Kingdoms of China, Series Premiere, Monday, March 23, 8/7c, Nat Geo Wild