Panda O Panda, Why Art Thou So Cute, O Panda?
With the body of a sun bear, eyes like a raccoon and fur of that of a koala .. what in the world IS a panda bear? Well, they’re not just a giant fur ball of cuteness. The giant panda 大熊猫 or “big bear cat” is a bear native to south central China. With large, distinctive black patches around their eyes, over the ears, and across their round bod, the name “giant panda” is sometimes used to distinguish it from the unrelated red panda. Though the panda belongs to the order of Carnivora, their diet is 99% bamboo.
The average giant panda eats as much as 9 to 14 kg (20 to 30 lb) of bamboo shoots a day to compensate for its low level of energy digestibility. That is a WHOPPING amount of fibre we are talking about here almost the weight of a toddler *gasp!*. Unbeknownst to many the giant panda is like a nomad, roaming and feeding in the bamboo forests of Qinling Mountains and in the hilly Sichuan Province. Giant pandas are generally solitary. Each adult has a defined territory, and a female is not tolerant of other females in her range (talk about marking her territory and possible cat fights, panda style!). Social encounters occur primarily during the brief breeding season in which pandas in proximity to one another will gather. After mating, the male leaves the female alone to raise the cub.
Pandas communicate through vocalisation and scent marking such as clawing trees or spraying urine. They are able to climb and take shelter in hollow trees or rock crevices, but do not establish permanent dens. For this reason, pandas do not hibernate, which is similar to other subtropical mammals, and will instead move to elevations with warmer temperatures. The giant panda typically lives around 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. The oldest captive, a female named Ming Ming, had a recorded age of 34. As of December 2014, 49 giant pandas live in captivity outside China, living in 18 zoos in 13 different countries.
Yes, Australians and Chinese both share a love affair for furry, fuzzy and insanely adorable bears. The marsupial Koala bear which is native to Australia and her Chinese comrade the Panda.
For movie lovers and ancient Chinese martial arts enthusiasts, Hoyts cinema is currently abuzz with the screening of the highly entertaining Kung Fu Panda 3. When I watched the first 2 movies, I vividly remember almost falling off my chair from laughing too hard! How can anyone not snigger or laugh out loud at the sight of a chubby fuzzy Panda doing Kung Fu in mid-air?!
As the latest instalment of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, the story centers on Po’s long lost panda father who suddenly reappears out of the blue. The reunited duo then travels to a secret panda paradise and chanced upon scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the renowned Kung Fu masters, Po is pushed to do the impossible!
He must train a village full of his fun-loving but clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas to defeat evil Kai. Will the clumsy pandas buff up in time to be the Ultimate Fighting Pandas? Who will reign supreme?!
Whether you are a Panda lover, Koala devotee or Kung Fu enthusiast, I invite you to find out more about the many facets of Chinese culture! Check out the year-long cultural activities or study tours organised by the Confucius Institute, subscribe to their newsletter, or follow them on Facebook.
Leading Image: Wikimedia.