January 03, 2010

Giant Panda

Panda bears eat early in the morning and then nap for the rest of day. Since they are vegetarians subsisting on a diet of bamboo, they have little energy to waste. I had to rise at dawn to catch them during feeding time at Chengdu's world famous Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Founded in 1987 and boasting a population of six giant pandas, now there are about 80 pandas kept in captivity here. Tourists can purchase the opportunity to take a picture with the lovable creatures, with proceeds going towards further panda protection efforts. Attendants go out into the panda pen and grab one of the bears, who sedately cling on to the fellow as they are taken to the photo shoot. With most of their natural habitat destroyed by man, the pandas at the base lead a sheltered life where they are provided with free food and health care. 

As the pandas munched on bamboo shoots, a brawl suddenly erupted between two Chinese tourists. The attention of the crowd shifted from bear to man. The two combatants fought with great tenacity and vigour, if little skill. A fresh faced security guard ran to the scene to see what the hubbub was about, before completing a full revolution and running back in the direction he came from. A few able bodied Westerners had separated the two pugilists by the time he returned with reinforcements. The men were then escorted out and everyone's attention shifted towards the pandas once more.


A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. "Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage. The panda pauses on his way out, produces a wildlife manual, and tosses it over his shoulder. "Well, I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and finds an explanation:

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats shoots and leaves."