giant-panda-pastel-Amanda-Tamsin

Giant Panda in Pastel, by Amanda Tamsin

A New Panda!

I have been known as “Amanda Panda”.  My son once whispered theatrically to his teacher that this was my name…  She found it hilarious.  However, I’m actually blogging about these bears because there is a baby giant panda at Beauval Zoo, not far from my favourite part of France…

A week or so ago on French news they were headlining that the zoo had finally put the five-month old baby panda on public display.  The birth of an animal is lovely, but I don’t think the panda was that impressed by some of the surrounding fuss as it met its Godmother, Brigitte Macron, with jumps and growls!

Yuan Meng, meaning “accomplishment of a dream”, is the baby of a panda couple loaned to France by China.  In return for the loan, France are providing money to support a programme of panda conservation in the forests of Chengdu, as explained here (in lovely, clear French).

“Why all the fuss?”  you might ask…

So was the giant panda story worthy of being headline news?  Well, there is the feel-good factor when we hear something positive amongst all the depressing information we receive. The widely publicized birth has also re-opened the debate on the way we care for our natural environment and its creatures.  Added to that, Yuang Meng is the first giant panda born in France, so quite a big deal if we are talking about “charismatic megafauna”, as the naturalist Chris Packham describes the species.

There are opposing views as to whether the panda should receive so much focus.  In this article in the Guardian,  Chris Packham highlights this as “single-species conservation”.  He says that it may be better to “Save the Kalahari”, for example, thereby preserving a whole habit and all its species.  Dr Mark Wright doesn’t agree.  He claims that by conserving the giant panda, we protect an area of forest which is home to rare bird species, along with the red panda and golden monkey. The arguments of both experts appear to be based on their views of the species’ natural survival prospects; Chris Packham suggests that the giant panda would be likely to die out anyway, with it having a low libido amongst other issues.  Dr Mark Wright believes it could “bumble along nicely”.

The end goal

The ultimate goal of the programme is a good one.  Conservationists wish to reintroduce the creature to the wild in Chengdu and to find a female there with which it may reproduce.  Nine other pandas bred in captivity have been successfully reintroduced to their natural habitat already.  So, on that note, do enjoy this video clip in which the panda is exceptionally cute and funny!

Incidentally, I visited the giant panda centre in Chengdu around 15 years ago (when I was a backpacker…).  I remember the beautiful surrounding rainforest with its lush vegetation and red earth. How wonderful if Yuan Meng and her parents do return there…