Saturday, February 2, 2013

Panda World

On our recent vacation in Chengdu (see also the story about Leshan Buddha) we visited the Chengdu panda reserve. We had registered as "volunteers" for the day, so when we arrived a friendly member of the education staff took us to the panda area.

The panda's were amazing on all accounts. They are cute and adorable and kind of weird looking in their black and white outfits. Apparently though, they are not too bright. And from what I learned from the zoo keepers it seems a wonder they they are surviving at all...

Of course, as we all know, their habitat--the wild bamboo forests--are rapidly disappearing and that is their biggest problem. But their physiology is also not helping the survival of the species. Because of their bamboo diet, they apparently don't have a lot of energy to do anything at all. So they just eat and sleep, eat and sleep... with very little energy left to have sex perhaps a few times per year. This means that in a year, there are just not that many opportunities to create descendants. And even if a panda becomes pregnant and a panda cub is born, the cub's chances of survival are small.

But we quickly forgot about all these depressing details when we fed and played with the pandas. They seemed fun-loving animals and definitely enjoyed the apples we give them on a stick.

We fed them apples...

We cleaned up their bamboo. (If the panda's don't finish their bamboo, it's taken out of their cages and replaced with fresh bamboo. They are picky eaters and will only eat the fresh stuff. Every day, loads and loads of fresh bamboo from the mountain areas around Chengdu are wheeled into the panda reserve.)

We read a book with panda. 

We felt his fur. 

In het Nederlands: Tijdens onze vakantie in Chengdu, in de provincie Sichuan, een aantal weken geleden, gingen we ook op bezoek bij de panda's. Wat een mooie dieren. Maar het is geen wonder dat ze met uitsterven bedreigd worden. Niet alleen gaat hun habitat (ze eten alleen bamboe) eraan, maar ze hebben gewoon bijzonder weinig sex (dat kost te veel energy en dat kan je je dan op basis van die bamboe niet vaak veroorloven) en als er al een kleintje komt heeft die ook bijzonder weinig overlevingskansen. Maar de panda's die wij zagen maakten het goed, zoals je op de foto's ziet. 

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