When you think of China, what springs to mind instantly? Is it stunning countryside? Perhaps it’s incredible efficiency? It may be the beautiful cuisine on offer? While all of those things are indeed true of this stunning part of the world, there is another hidden treasure linked with China, that sadly, not many of us are aware of. The hidden treasure in general is none other than the Giant Panda, which many simply refer to as Panda. These beautiful and mysterious creatures have been roaming the earth for centuries upon centuries, yet how much do we actually know about these mysterious creatures? We know that they’re black and white, we know that they’re large, and we know that new panda mothers are incredibly scared of sneezing offspring (we’ve all seen the video). But what else do we know about them? Well, if the answer is not very much hopefully by the time you finish reading this article, your existing knowledge of Pandas in China will be significantly improved. Take a look, and see what you think.
Pandas were first discovered by the West in 1849 – As with most things in life, sadly the reason why Pandas were initially discovered in the West is not particularly pleasant. You see, back in the year 1849, it was a typical Spring morning in China. China was under the rule of the Qing dynasty, where a French priest by the name of David, was able to acquire the skin of a giant panda. The panda had reportedly died of natural causes, and David was fascinated by it. A man with a very scientific brain, David saw great potential in this unknown species and was convinced that the world would benefit from it. He arranged for the capture of one of these pandas and had it shipped over to France. Sadly, the trauma, along with the change in Climate, meant that the panda lost its life. He studied the panda and learnt what he could from it, before eventually donating it to the Paris National Museum. From this moment onwards, the West was now aware of the existence of this amazing creature.
Giant Pandas have been on this earth a long time – This next fact about giant pandas may come as quite a surprise to you. Yes, we mentioned earlier how giant pandas have been around for centuries upon centuries. This was quite the understatement on our part as giant pandas have actually been roaming the earth for close to 3 million years. What’s even more remarkable is the fact there was thought to be a species of bear, very closely related to the panda, that was alive more than 10 million years ago (more on that later). Over the years, these pandas have evolved to be much bigger than they once were during the Pluvial period, which saw large quantities of precipitation and humidity. China’s climate, especially in the mountains, fits this description perfectly, which is why you find pandas in the wild, even today, in these very locations.
The giant panda’s ancestors were European – Briefly we just mentioned how there was a species of bear, closely related to the panda, that roamed the earth 10 million years ago. This species of bear was found in Hungary. This bear was very closely related to the giant pandas that we now know and love, and its diet primarily consisted of, yes, you guessed it – bamboo. This is one of the main reasons why giant pandas are now so capable of consuming such vast quantities of bamboo. It is also why giant pandas have evolved to be able to harvest bamboo with the aid of a thumb, as this helps them to grip onto the bamboo. Pandas can eat close to 15kg of bamboo in a day in some cases. Because of this, experts believe that pandas actually originated in Europe, as opposed to Asia.
The bear cat, or should that be, cat bear? – Considered the national treasure of China, pandas are very unique and wonderful creatures. But do you know their true name? In China, the word panda literally translates to ‘Bear Cat’, or so we thought. It turns out that the correct translation is ‘cat bear’. When you look at pandas for yourself, this actually makes perfect sense. Believe it or not, but the reason for this mix-up in translation was due to the fact that, because the newspaper titles were read from right to left, rather than left to right, journalists got the name mixed up and called it the bear cat, when it was actually cat bear. As the newspaper was a widely read tabloid, the incorrect translation quickly spread. One thing that is for certain however, is that whether you called these creatures bear cats, or cat bears, this did not change the fact that they were so enormously popular.
Pandas can live for up to 20 years on average – In panda years, 1 human year is equal to around 3 panda years. In our years, the average life expectancy for giant pandas is 15 years in the wild, or 20 years in panda sanctuaries. The reason for this is that these pandas, when raised in human captivity, actually do have very good lives. They have shelter, they have warmth, they have clean water, they have food, and they are protected from predators. What’s even more remarkable is that pandas have been known to live close to 40 years of age, which is absolutely amazing when you think about it. This is the equivalent of a human being living to over 100 years of age.
Pandas are dangerous – We know that Kung Fu Panda packs one heck of a punch, but we also know that he is not real. However, his temperament may be. You see, when we think of giant pandas, we think of these cute, oversized teddy bears that are lazy and soft-natured. While they’re not ferocious warriors, giant pandas have been known to be very dangerous. The reason for this is that, like most things in the wild, these creatures have their predators and must fight them off. They are up against all kinds of predators that wish to do them harm, so they need to protect themselves, and more importantly, their young. When put up against predators such as wolves, when it came down to a wolf versus a panda, the wolf would last a few seconds and would literally be torn to shreds, especially if the panda was protecting its young.
Panda excrement makes a great fertilizer – Pandas actually have fairly weakened gastrointestinal systems, which means that they don’t absorb as many nutrients from their food as other creatures. On average, they only absorb 30% of their nutrients, meaning that 70% from the bamboo is left in their excrement. This means that panda faeces makes fantastic fertilizer for growing all kinds of produce. In the Sichuan Province, you can purchase a very expensive variety of tea known as Giant Panda tea. The leaves used in this tea were grown from plants and trees which were grown with, yep, Panda excrement for fertilizer. This nourishes the plants with heaps of nutrients, giving the healthiest and most amazingly tasting tea you can ever imagain.