Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pandas in Sichuan

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province in China.  Their web site here provides a bit of information and has some exciting announcements, including that they are looking for a Chengdu Pambassador.  I'm not sure if you get diplomatic immunity with that.

The pandas seem to have a pretty good environment to do what they do best, which from what I saw is lazing around and eating.  There were numerous locations in a very lush environment to observe the pandas.

In one part of the base there is an educational video to watch on panda reproduction.  It could leave one wondering if pandas just aren't too concerned about continuing the species anymore.  While I'm certainly no panda expert, I wasn't surprised that breeding pandas has been so challenging when the videos show attempted matings occurring is dismal bare rooms with numerous humans looking on.  Even dinosaurs know you need a little romance.

Some additional facts about giant pandas:
  • English naturalist Chris Packham thinks efforts to save the giant panda are too expensive and the funds should be used to save other animals.  In a particularly colorful moment he said, "I'd eat the last panda if I could have the money we've spent on panda conservation back on the table for me to do more sensible things with."
  • Adult pandas prefer to spend their time alone.
  • Due to their low nutrition diet, pandas need to eat a lot and may defecate up to 40 times in a day.
  • Some tribal people in Sichuan didn't believe the panda had many medicinal purposes but they did use to use panda urine to melt swallowed needles.  The referenced book doesn't offer an explanation as to why swallowed needles were such a problem.
  • "despite there being a number of depictions of bears in Chinese art starting from its most ancient times, and the bamboo being one of the favorite subjects for Chinese painters, there are no known pre-20th-century artistic representations of giant pandas."
  • The common Chinese term for pandas, 熊猫 (xióng māo), literally translates as "bear cat".  This may be because while other bear species have round pupils, the panda's pupils have vertical slits like a cat.
I know some readers have been long awaiting some gratuitous panda photos from China.  I hope the following appeases you:

Open wide

The panda flute essemble

Making a fan?

Panda trio

Young panda cuddling with Mom

Pandas sharing their thoughts on the best bamboo vintages

"I saw a pile of bamboo this big!"

The very distantly related red pandas like to eat too

Another red panda checking things out

Making use of the swing

On the way up

Made it

The older pandas are often kept solitary.  No matter, that's how they like it and the bamboo tastes just as good.

The pandas don't seem to give much notice to the strange humans.  Though they've been known to attack humans in the wild "out of irritation".

A panda shocked to see its mating rituals are being observed.  Actually, it's a less than grand diorama in the museum.

A section of another diorama in the museum.  This one is about the panda's long history.
The parks loves to point out pandas are "living fossils".  Apparently these are some prehistoric panda watchers.

Of course, a panda park wouldn't be complete without panda souvenir shops.

That's all of the panda photos for now.  Goodbye!