Why do we love pandas so much?
Believe it or not, a lot of people have pondered this exact same question.
Liz Carter, a writer for Foreign Policy News (FP) , wrote an article in December 2013 titled Even Chinese People are Baffled by How Much Americans Love Pandas. The title itself just makes you chuckle a bit doesn’t it, but yet so many of us can relate to this desire to see that cute baby panda whenever we visit a zoo.
It’s really an obsession for many.
They even sell 6 feet tall Giant Pandas just so you could experience what it’s like to hug a life like panda at home (they have a brown version too if you are interested).
I don’t know how many of you remember this, but China loaned Bao Bao the panda to the Smithsonian National Zoo. When this resident panda turned 100 days old, the media went crazy! National television coverage, write-ups in the New York Times and thousands of people flooded to share in the celebration.
The demand could not be satisfied. Then came the new set up of the Giant Panda Cam, which allowed people to log in online to view the every movement of the oh-so-adorable baby Bao Bao from wherever you were in the world.
Here are the basics about Giant Pandas:
- They originate from Central Asia.
- The name “panda” originated from the Nepalese word “ponya”, which means “bamboo.”
- You guessed it…bamboo is their main source of food!
- There are two types of panda species, but despite the fact that they share a name, live in similar areas and share similar diets, they are actually not related to each other and are distinctly very different. (Giant Pandas vs. Red Pandas)
- Pandas are a species of a bear and can grow to between 5-6 feet tall.
Why do people LOVE pandas?
Honestly, this question is very subjective to each person, but there are a lot of people who have speculated and pondered this question to no end. The lovable creatures are soft, cuddly and serve as one of the biggest attractions in most zoos. There’s usually always a line and people love to share sightings of pandas in the wild.
Accredited BBC News even posted an article in 2011 titled “Why do we love pandas?” The basis of the article stemmed around the scientific findings of Mr. Ron Swaisgood, who is the Director of Applied Animal Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. This is what he says…
1) They remind us of ourselves.
They eat sitting up using their hands and their pseudo thumb, which is actually a modified wrist bone.
2) It’s all in the eyes.
People love big eyes because it reminds them of children…Our own young have characteristics that we humans respond to such as a big, round head, large eyes, a high forehead and a roly-poly body. We are programmed to respond to these babyish looks. Babies just make us like them and want to care for them. It is part of our human make up.
3) They make us laugh.
We just find pandas funny.
4) They are shy.
Henry Nicholls, who is the author of “The Way of the Panda,” writes There is some rather heartening that, in a very developed world, this species can still evade us and manage to carve out a space for itself.
5) They are cultural symbols.
WWF uses an image of a panda to represent the importance of conservation.
Ron Swaisgood goes on to say People love to rally around an underdog…Good news is, its working.
China uses the image of a panda to represent the potency of their nation.
6) They are rare.
There are less than 1600 giant pandas in the world. They are officially listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s List. We will truly never know the actual number of how many giant pandas exist.
The main threat to giant pandas are habitat loss, human development and land use as well as trapping for fur.
7) They are peaceful vegetarians.
30-80lbs of bamboo shoots is what the average giant panda needs to consume each day, but in captivity pandas are fed other varieties of food, which include fruit, fish, eggs, honey, and vegetables.
Giant Panda Facts
- Aka Ailuropoda melanoleuca
- Known as the gentlest bear due to the fact that it is a herbivore.
- Average Height of 5-6 feet.
- Average Weight of more than 200 pounds.
- They consume bamboo shoots are their main source of nutrition, but can also eat small rodents when food is scarce.
- Average day consists of around 16 hours of eating.
- One Thumb and 4 fingers on each hand to grip the bamboo.
- They can climb despite their weight and size.
Where can I see one?
This is the age-old question, as you will rarely run into a panda in the wild and most importantly not a Giant Panda. According to the GiantPandaZoo.com, there are 51 giant pandas living outside of China. The first panda to be placed in a zoo outside of China occurred in February 8, 1937 and went by the name of Su Lin. The first zoo honored with this privilege was the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. There are only 18 zoos in 13 countries have Giant Pandas.
Of these 51 pandas, the top 8 most famous pandas are:
#1 – Bao Bao
I talked briefly about this beautifully sweet sensation. She is the Internet’s “most famous webcam panda cub” dubbed by The Daily Mail Reporter in the UK. Millions of people watch her grow up at the Smithsonian Zoo in the United States. She was born August 23, 2013 and is only the 2nd surviving cub born in a zoo since 1972. Unfortunately, many cubs born in the 80s were born, but none lived more than a few days.
Her name means “treasure” or “precious”. There is also a Bao Bao Panda Fan Club that you can join.
#2 – Ling Ling
Although there are currently 8 other giant pandas residing in Japan as of April 2008, Ling Ling was the only giant panda directly owned by Japan. The other are on loan from Japan and have served as a symbol of friendship between Japan and China. Ling Ling, resided at the Ueno Zoo since 1992 and even though he was male, his name meant “darling little girl” in Chinese.
Ling Ling passed away in 2008 due to old age (heart failure) and has left the Ueno Zoo at a loss. He was famous due to his long life as the most popular attraction at the zoo for over 15 years. Writer, Mari Yamaguchi of NBC News shares that many have mourned the loss of the “5th oldest known male panda in the world (2008).”
#3 – Chi Chi
Even though Chi Chi is no longer physically with us today as she passed in 1972, her presence is still seen throughout the world. Chi Chi was the inspiration of Peter Scott’s design for the original logo of the World Wildlife Fund. She has also been transferred and moved to more zoos than any one animal will ever see.
Chi Chi was originally born in Sichuan, China in 1957, moved to the Beijing Zoo in 1958 was traded by an Austrian Animal broker (Heini Demmer), and placed in the Moscow Zoo. Then she was temporarily placed in the Tierpark Berlin Zoo, but was sold to a U.S. Zoo. The approval of sale was then denied by the American Government, which then led to her transfer to the Copenhagen Zoo until her final landing at the London Zoo. All of these moves took place within the year 1958.
#4 and #5 – Twins: Mei Lun and Mei Huan
It’s not hard to guess what makes these two pandas so popular. They are twins! These two lovable pandas were born on July 15, 2013 and became only the second set of twins born in the U.S. since 1987. Note: Another set was born in August 2015 at the Smithsonian Zoo, but only one survived past the weekend. L
Currently the pandas reside with their mother, Lun Lun, at the Atlanta Zoo. You will find them okaying together in their indoor dayroom habitat or one of the outdoor areas, but only until the early afternoon. The rest of the tie, they will be sleeping.
#6, 7, and #8 – Triplets: Mengmeng, Shuaishuai and Kuku
There adorable pandas are the world’s only surviving panda triplets and they just celebrated their first birthday on July 29, 2015. They are the world’s longest surviving panda triplets in history. They were born at only 0.22lbs each, but now weigh approx. 11lbs.
The triplets have given a great reason to celebrate. They were serenaded by a famous pianist on their 1 year birthday and put on display for a limited time for their 100 day celebration. They now serve as a National pride of China.
Here is the complete list of Zoo Pandas outside of China
- North America
- Bai Yun – San Diego Zoo
- Gao Gao – San Diego Zoo
- Xiao Liwu – San Diego Zoo
- Yang Yang – Zoo Atlanta
- Lun Lun – Zoo Atlanta
- Tian Tian – National Zoo
- Meix Xiang – National Zoo
- Bao Bao – National Zoo
- Bei Bei – National Zoo
- Mei Lun – Zoo Atlanta
- Mei Huan – Zoo Atlanta
- Le Le – Memphis Zoo
- Ya Ya – Memphis Zoo
- Er Shun – Toronto Zoo
- Da Mao – Toronto Zoo
- Shaun Shuan – Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico City)
- Xin Xin – Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico City)
- Yang Yang – Tiergarten Schonbrunn
- Long Hui – Tiergarten Schonbrunn
- Fu Bao – Tiergarten Schonbrunn / Zoo Vienna
- Hao Hao – Pairi Daiza
- Xing Hui – Pairi Daiza
- Tian Tian – Edinburgh Zoo
- Yang Guang – Edinburgh Zoo
- Bing Xing – Zoo Madrid
- Hua Zuiba – Zoo Madrid
- Xing Bao – Zoo Madrid
- Yuan Zi – ZooParc de Beauval
- Huan Huan – ZooParc de Beauval
- Tan Tan – Kobe Oji Zoo (Japan)
- Ri Ri – Ueno Zoo (Japan)
- Shin Shin – Ueno Zoo
- Tuan Tuan – Taipei Zoo
- Yuan Yuan – Taipei Zoo
- Yuan Zai – Taipei Zoo
- Fu Wa – Zoo Negara Malaysia
- Feng Yi – Zoo Negara Malaysia
- Zoo Negara Malaysia Cub – Zoo Negara Malaysia
- Chuang Chuang – Chiang Mai Zoo (Thailand)
- Lin Hui – Chiang Mai Zoo (Thailand)
- Kai Kai – River Safari (Singapore)
- Jia Jia – River Safari (Singapore)
- Ei Mei – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Rau Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Kai Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- You Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Yu Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Ou Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Tou Hin – Adventure World (Wakayama, Japan)
- Wang Wang – Adelaide Zoo
- Fu Ni – Adelaide Zoo
Now it’s time to book your next ticket to the nearest zoo. Take a look at the various places you can see the coveted panda and map out the closest one to you. Personally, I have seen the panda exhibit at the San Diego Zoo recently and it was definitely the busiest exhibit. We had to wait in a 45 minute line as if it were a ride, but thankfully they had mists of water spraying at you along the path. It was worth the wait for all the cuteness overload. This line plus the long line at the Panda Food Stall prompted me to write this post and do some research. Hope you enjoy this!