Yes, today is National Panda day, and so I have once again raided my stash of photos from my various Edinburgh Zoo visits for appropriate illustrations.
The idea of today is to promote efforts to preserve their habitats and raise awareness of the issues they face, although thankfully is it now a much more hopeful situation for the species as their numbers in the wild have actually started to gradually increase (they even got downgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN in 2016!) Though there is still only thought to be between 2,000 and 3,000 of them left in the wild, so there is always room for improvement.
Giant Pandas are the oldest living species of the bear family, and probably the most popular one. They just seem much more cuddly and loveable than their other bear cousins (maybe it’s because we know they only eat bamboo, and are therefore less likely to want to eat us?) and their colouration is, let’s face it, adorable. Apparently in the 1980s a Taiwanese zoo once painted a Sun Bear black and white to try and pretend it was a Giant Panda because they thought it would make a better attraction for the zoo!
Native to China, we westerners didn’t even know Pandas were a thing until 1869 when a French missionary visiting China was given a Panda pelt as a gift! Even in China, they don’t feature as much in old folk tales and art as much as you would expect because they are so shy and reclusive in the wild that they weren’t as prevalent as they feel today thanks to campaigns like this to spread the word about them. They are more a thing in modern culture, than historical.
One place we see the Panda a lot nowadays, is on the logo of the World Wildlife Federation. They chose it in 1961 because it is distinctive and appealing, but also because it is one of the rarest and most vulnerable bears in the world. The perfect symbol for what their work stands for and tries to protect.
(I am currently raising money for the WWF by walking 100 miles with Chase in March, if you want to support us then we would be super grateful!)
One thing I learned whilst researching this blog post, is that Pandas can swim. I knew they could climb, but had no idea they also happily master the water in their environment.
Oh, and sometimes they do a sort of handstand to pee by walking their back feet up a tree trunk so they can scent mark higher up…
I am going to leave you with a Panda question to ponder and guess: