Saturday, March 29, 2008
GA-GA OVER PANDA
(Snapshots from Beijing, Part One)
The Beijing Zoo hosts more than 5,000 animals. But try telling that to the hordes of tourists visiting as part of a package tour (just like moi), and they'd all be surprised.
Why? Because they've all been herded here to see one animal, and one animal only: From the Ailuropoda melanoleuca species, it is known locally as "Da Xiong Mao"; or in English, Giant Panda.
According to our tour guide, the government spends more than RMB1 million (roughly PHP6 million) per year for the panda's main food, bamboo shoots. As it is not a very nutritious food item, the pandas have to eat a lot of it. But this seems not enough, since they tend to just eat and sleep most of the time.
Check out this panda's spacious playpen. Each panda has to be kept separately, as they tend to fight when housed together. Tsk, tsk, such VIA treatment. Egad, he even has his own rocking chair!
But don't let their bulky bodies and lethargic-looking faces deceive you, panda bears can be agile and swift in attacking you if you come too close and annoy or disturb them. You wouldn't want suddenness to happen, would you?
Check out this panda as he (she?) displayed surprising dexterity up the tree, rotating upside down just to take a bite of the tree branch. I was actually egging him to fall off the tree and land on the ground with a gigantic thud (and told my sister to get ready to record it on video), but no such luck. Darn!
At present, the world has only 1,596 giant pandas in the wild and another 239 in captivity. Female pandas normally give birth to 1 - 3 offspring, but they select only one baby panda and abandon the other cubs. This low birth rate among pandas and low survival rate of new-born cubs has the government in a tizzy. To what extent?
Well, check out these selected excerpts from an article published on the March 25th issue of the China Daily newspaper:
Panda pornography has been used to encourage lazy pandas to have sex, but now a fresh routine is keeping the threatened species alive. Young male pandas are now taking part in a rigorous 'sexercise' program.
The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is making male pandas walk on two legs to strengthen their hip muscles and better prepare them for sex. The dance-like routine strengthens the pelvic and hip area, and also boosts the animal's sexual stamina, zoo keepers say.
"After pandas succeed in taking the standing-up exercise, we would feed them apples to reward them. Otherwise, they would not cooperate with keepers next time," [chief] Yang says.
The base also relies on its more senior pandas to show the way.
"We arrange love-making between two excellent pandas in front of inexperienced pandas, which have never had sex. It does work," [deputy chief] Fei says.
By this time, you've probably guessed that i'm no huge fan of the panda. Well, at least they're not as bad as the koala bear of Australia, which sleeps 20 hours per day, eats 3 hours per day, and grooms itself the rest of the time. It doesn't play with other koalas, too.
Oh, if you get too close, the koala will either claw you, or pee on you.
Quite a lovely creature, eh?
Going back to our dear cute, spoiled panda, i'm sure the tigers, elephants, monkeys and other animals in Beijing Zoo are conspiring to "accidentally" [wink, wink] get rid of it or something, for stealing all the attention away from them.
So beware, Panda. I'd get off my fat ass and start practicing some boxing moves along with my two-legged stance, if i were you.