I’m kicking off day five with a new poll. Again, I’m using an interview question from Five Minutes With a Custard – which season would you be? Next, A Leek Writes returns to the festival with a fascinating article.
Next up, FTP presents a special guest writer – blogger, multimedia journalist, poet, artist and playwright: A Leek Writes!
Guess the animal:
A ridiculous bumbling over-sized fluff-ball, this animal propels himself on springy legs and podgy paws. He tumbles his weight over itself lazily (and usually hungrily) through the Tibetan Plateau in the general direction of bamboo stalks. They snap with a satisfying crack as he snacks. The vast, hefty muscles rippling under the thick soft coat of stark white fur are… absolutely wasted as he eschews most traditional survival skills and opts for a diet of bamboo. He could hunt and eat meat if he wanted to, and has to eat bamboo for 14 hours a day to get just enough nutrition in 40 pounds of it. He is potentially a 350-pounder wallop of frosty vanilla ice cream tolerating a bucket of dark chocolate sauce tipped over his sides. His ambling walk is helpless and silly and his eyes peer out from exquisite, symmetrical plates of black fur set in the face, fixed in a surprised and cute expression across his wide, white forehead, with little black ears perched on top.
He has no idea how cute he is.
Or how solely dependent on human conservation efforts.
We are of course talking about the Giant Panda.
They are believed to date from 3 million years ago – a “living fossil” – which is remarkable considering their reliance on bamboo and lack of much agility or adaptation since then. Their cute puffy cheeks actually hide ravaging teeth and muscles that allow pandas to rip into the toughest of stalks – but apart from that, they don’t store fat, they don’t hibernate and they don’t really hunt if they can help it. So they are always looking for food.
In China’s Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) people believed pandas had mystical powers. They freely roamed the gardens of emperors. Pandas are now a Chinese National Treasure.
The scientific estimate of their population is now only 1,600.
About 300 are in reserves, zoos and wildlife parks. Zoos outside China hire pandas from the Chinese government and this money is used for wild panda conservation.
Speaking of which:
Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are 8-year-old pandas and the first to grace Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland – the first in the UK in 17 years. They arrived in December 2011 and proceeded to take everything by storm all over the news:
The pandas travelled the 5,000 miles non-stop to Scotland from China on a special flight that became known as the FedEx “Panda Express”. The pair will stay for the next 10 years and it is hoped they will breed cubs. Speaking of which:
A crèche has been built for TWO baby pandas – in case they have twins. Around one in two panda pregnancies result in twins, but in the wild the runt is usually left to die… so Edinburgh Zoo has created a nursery to help two cubs survive. Vets have a dedicated room to incubate and hand-rear the second infant if they get twins. If both cubs can be reared, it’s important because it could increase the numbers of pandas to potentially be released back into the wild.
The zoo’s chief executive Hugh Roberts said: “We see the pandas as catalysts for research, education and conservation – aimed at improving the future for pandas.”
£42,722 was the first price of controversy; the Scottish government threw a ‘welcome party’ for the pandas. Two months after their arrival, they knocked the King penguins off the top of the adoption list – now panda adoptions account for 16% of all animal adoptions/sponsor an animal.
Zoo worker Tracy Hope said: “Our king penguins had actually been top of the animal adoption list for the last 7 years, but being very regal poised birds they seem to be taking the news very well.”
That’s NOT to mention the BBC in their “Women of the Year” shortlist knocked out the humans – and put Tian Tian, the panda, as the ‘face’ of December. Feminists and all other people capable of human sensitivity were appalled when there are so many high-achieving women in the UK and the world – but their defence was basically not to take it so seriously. (It’s not Time magazine, okay?)
The pandas were sick with colic and taken off from public viewing a couple of weeks ago – but don’t worry, they are better now! It is normal – colic is common in giant pandas with sensitive digestive systems adapting to a slightly different bamboo.
I don’t need a reason to dedicate this article to pandas; they are always adorable and helplessly in need of conservation. I have a prized army of toy pandas. My name rhymes with panda. But with the ongoing kerfuffle over here in the UK upon the arrival of the first pandas in 17 years, this post was irresistible.
Thank you to A Leek for being a guest writer today. I’ll see you all tomorrow – day 6.