Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fighting panda extinction

Not only do the evolutionary dead-enders known as pandas have a hard time reproducing, they also seem to find it difficult to eat. Even when food is around.

The [Zoo Atlanta pandas'] diet consists almost entirely of bamboo, but they will eat only about 20 of the 200 or so species that grow in Georgia. What type they like also varies by the time of year. Sometimes the pandas will eat nothing but one variety for a week, then refuse to eat it anymore. (Sound familiar, parents?)

And the bamboo has to be fresh — the pandas turn up their noses at dry or wilted leaves and discolored stalks.

So the zoo relies on a bamboo hunting team to find and harvest local patches of the plant. The bamboo they collect cannot be grown with pesticides or near polluted waterways. And most important, it must be appetizing to the pandas.

The astounding effort humans put forth to keep the panda from dying off is remarkable. What's even more remarkable is how the media feels it needs to be clever and cute whenever reporting on every little quirk of this species.

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