Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fighting panda extinction

Well, not really, this time.

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin Zoo denied media allegations on Tuesday that Knut the celebrity polar bear cub was responsible for the sudden demise of one of its older attractions, a 22-year-old panda who was found dead in her cage.

Just four days after the euphoria over the debut of three-and-a-half-month-old "Cuddly Knut", the mysterious death of Chinese-born Yan Yan stole the headlines in Tuesday's German newspapers.

Top-selling Bild reported the influx of visitors to the zoo -- about 30,000 a day -- could have stressed the black and white bear, who spent much of her time lying on her back chomping at bamboo shoots.

"Lots of people gave up on seeing Knut because of the long queues, so they went to see Yan Yan instead. She seemed intimidated and anxious," wrote the paper, suggesting Yan Yan could have had a heart attack.

Berlin Zoo denied any link.

What's amazing is that people in the media -- in this case -- seem to believe that the panda became so stressed out by being looked at (in a zoo!) that she died. If -- BIG "IF" -- this turns out to be true, that trait doesn't strike me as an evolutionary strength. And the pandas could be in more danger than we thought!

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