Of Pandas & Men
Roberto Rivera on Darwinism & Why We Let the Pandas Live
One hundred forty kilometers north of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province lies the Wolong Nature Preserve, a 200,000-hectare area that contains approximately ten percent of the world’s giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Wolong’s Giant Panda Research Center, which was the subject of a recent Discovery HD Theater documentary, Panda Nursery, has made important breakthroughs in the breeding and raising of the endangered species. Panda Nursery documented the first six months in the lives of two giant panda cubs. For the staff, especially the head of the breeding program, ensuring their survival was a 24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week task. The head of the program told viewers that he only saw his own two-year-old daughter two days a month.
Viewers learned everything they could possibly want to know about the creatures. For starters, after some debate, biologists have concluded that giant pandas are, in fact, bears, not, as previously thought, kin to raccoons. As for the distinctive markings, the most popular theory is that these conspicuous markings help the solitary creatures both avoid each other most of the year and spot a potential mate during breeding season.
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Roberto Rivera is a Fellow at the Wilberforce Forum at Prison Fellowship. His work has appeared in Books & Culture, and he is also a regular contributor to the web magazine Boundless. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.
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