Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Please Stop Chewing My Leg

Pandas. You've gotta love them.

They looke cute, they're harmless, and for goodness sakes, they're not even real bears! They're cuddly! They're the apotheosis of innocence and all that is good.

Well, for the taxonomically challenged, yes, Panda bears are bears.

Specifically, they are Ailuropoda melanoleuca, "black-and-white cat-foot." That's a genus within the family Ursidae, which includes grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears, and the spectacled bear.

Pandas are generally herbivorous, although they will eat fish, rodents, honey, eggs, and other non-plant goodies when available. See if you can find a photo of panda teeth. Major canine action.

But if you were out in the forest, you'd be better off running into a panda than a grizzly. However, keep in mind that pandas are as non-domesticated as their brothers and sisters in the zoo.

That doesn't mean, however, that pandas are docile do-gooders. Gu gu, a panda at the Beijing zoo, reportedly gnawed the legs of a 15-year-old boy that entered the bear's cage last year. The Beijing News reported that Li Xitao "had both legs gnawed to the bone."

Yogi and Booboo never did that.

Check You Tube and you can find videos of a panda trying to pull a man into the 300-pound bear's cage. Bad panda!

There reason there aren't more run-ins between humans and pandas is that people are basically driving pandas to extinction so that they can grow rice or build factories.

Pandas should be protected, not because they're adorable, but for the same reasons that any species should be rescued from oblivion. Nature is a continuum, and taking out pieces could have unexpected effects.

Moreover, they have the innate value of all life, and it's not up to us to decide what lives and what dies.

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