National Panda Day
Every year on March 16, we celebrate the fluffiest, bamboo-munching bears that are a source of national pride for China. There are two subspecies of the panda: The Giant, a black and white panda, and the ‘Qinling panda’ – A much smaller, brown subspecies of a panda, discovered in 1985 in the mountain ranges of the southern Shaanxi Province in China. In the wilderness, giant pandas live only in the remote, mountainous regions of China. As of 2019, due to rapidly growing population numbers, the status of pandas was upgraded from “endangered” species to “vulnerable” species.
Still, it is reported that there are less than 2,000 pandas left in the wild, due to habitat loss, farming, fur hunting, and other factors. Pandas only live about 15 to 20 years in the wild, but those in captivity can live even longer. Panda bears play an important part in the ecosystem of China’s bamboo forests, by spreading seeds, and therefore, growing new vegetation, which serves both humans and animals. That’s why it is important to protect the panda and its environment.
One factor contributing to their endangered status is the low birth rate for pandas. Considering that female pandas are only fertile for two or three days of the year, it makes sense that reproduction in the wild is more difficult for this species. There are about 27 zoos worldwide that protect Giant Pandas, and foster environments to encourage reproduction. The most important factor for preserving wild pandas is to protect their environment, especially bamboo forests, their main source of nutrition.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL PANDA DAY
Though the origin of this holiday is unknown, we can assume that the day was created to bring awareness to the beauty of pandas and to keep them from going extinct. In 1961, the World Wide Fund for Nature was formed, and created their logo around the Panda, because it is “an animal that is beautiful, endangered, and loved by many people in the world,” as said by Sir Peter Scott, one of the first WWF founders. The panda became a symbol of the conservation movement around the world — a call to action to preserve endangered species, and our natural wildlife environments for our wild animals.
In 2020, due to the reproduction efforts in zoos, reforestation, and conservation campaigns, pandas are considered “vulnerable” to extinction. Though they are no longer on the brink of extinction, it’s important to keep the environment for pandas intact, as the giant panda plays an important part in our natural ecosystem. There have been some political debates in China and worldwide recently on how important it is to keep spending money to breed pandas in captivity and protect the forests of China, where the wild panda bears live. According to a scientific paper published in 2015 by The Society for Conservation Biology, preserving the natural habitat of the giant panda also helps 70% of the country’s forest birds, 70% of mammals, and 31% of amphibians. Pandas play a crucial role in forests, and it’s our job to protect them.
NATIONAL PANDA DAY ACTIVITIES
1.Watch a nature documentary about pandas
The ‘Kung Fu Panda’ animated series is a place to start, but real-life documentaries will do pandas more justice. For example, watch “A Panda Is Born — Documentary About Taishan”, which describes the life of one of the most famous pandas in the world, who was born in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and is the first panda to survive to maturity.
2.Wear pandas to start a conversation
Don clothes with panda logos, or buy panda paraphernalia, especially if it contributes to the conservation of the panda species. You never know who might be interested in learning more than just the fluffy cuteness of these creatures.
3.“Adopt a Panda”
You can sponsor and virtually “adopt” a panda online, which would help provide for their future existence. The cost to care for a panda in captivity can be expensive, but you are providing these creatures with long, peaceful lives.
WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL PANDA DAY
A. They serve as an International symbol of friendship and peace
Exchanges of giant pandas to American and Japanese zoos in the 1970s marked some of the first cultural gifts exchanged between China and the West. This has been termed “panda diplomacy”. The Chinese still consider pandas to be honored guests, and some people believe they bring good luck.
B. Their relaxed schedule of naps and cuddle piles
Though pandas are normally shy and antisocial with humans, they love to cuddle with each other, and nap for hours after a meal. It’s hard not to love these fluffy, tuxedo-wearing mammals, both in the wild and in zoos.
C. Baby pandas are the cutest baby mammals
A giant panda baby is the smallest mammal newborn relative to its mother’s size. When they are born, they are usually the size of a stick of butter.
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