We took a four hour drive to a place called Chengdu, which is the world's largest panda sanctuary. It was worth it.
The site, like the Trerracotta Warriors site, was well designed,- modern and thoughtful. Clearly heavily influenced by US theme park design, but in a good way.
What happened to the fourth line, I wonder?
Before I post any pictures of the adorable creatures, I would like to make the following observations that I gleaned as we went around*. They have forced me to conclude that the Giant Panda is one of the most stupid animals in the world.
- It is a carnivore that prefers to eat bamboo. In spite of eating bamboo for a long time the species has not adapted to being a vegetarian and will still eat rodents and other meat if it can't get bamboo.
- It only digests 20% of the bamboo it eats. The vast majority of it passes straight through the panda's body**. Consequently it has to spend the entire day, pretty much, eating a food that is almost, but not completely, unsuitable for it and indigestible.
- Its preferred diet is prone to die out even without human intervention. It is inedible once it has flowered.
- It prefers to be solitary, and has a very low desire to mate (hardly surprising as that might interfere with it eating bamboo).
- It is nearly impossible to tell if a female panda is pregnant. It probably doesn't know itself.
- Gestation can vary from 10 months to 3 years. They probably forget they're even pregnant.
- They are completely rubbish parents. The mother gives birth alone and the preferred method of child care is to knock the cub around with the back of its paw to encourage it to move, or to sit on it.
- They die of heat exhaustion if the temperature rises above 27 degrees, yet they choose to live in a hot and humid environment.
Any how, some pictures:
*This is written from memory. Some of these facts could be wrong.
** The Chinese make top quality paper from what the pandas do not digest.