Tawwwwism in Action
Chengdu Travel Blog› entry 102 of 115 › view all entries
If ever there was a species ripe to be branded evolutionary losers, pandas are it. A trip to Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre confirmed this for me. We arrived early to witness the black and white fur balls chowing down on their daily bushels of bamboo. As soon as the daily mastication session is complete, they're off to bed down and snooze away the rest of the day.
The reason? Well, pandas been dealt the rawest of deals in terms of their only food option; bamboo is a spectacularly poor source of nutrition for mammals naturally as weighty as Mao after a pork belly gorging session.
In fact the males of the species are left so lethargic by this stupidly inefficient diet that they're seldom even up for a bit of leg over action with their big-bottomed furry ladies.
Now that's the behaviour of a creature that natural selection meant to be erased sooner rather than later. Let's face it, if they looked like anything other than rotund cuddly teddy bears, then they'd have been left to drift into extinction years ago; their West China forest habitats encroached upon to such an extent that they'd all eventually have starved.
As it is, they're clinging to a conservation survival raft, riding a wave of money-spinning Tawwwwism. Even better news: the Chinese government gets to wring every last drop of goodwill from the panda sponge in return for a lifetime supply of cheapo greenery. Sounds like a bargain to me.
After we've “awwwwed!” our way through adult and juvenile feeding time, the frankly bizarre baby panda nursery and the enclosure of the squabbling, raccoon-like red pandas, it's time for the chuckle-fest that is the Breeding Centre's informative film.
My absolute favourite part of this cinematic gem is when an artificially-inseminated panda mother, seated forlornly in a barred indoor enclosure, gives birth in sudden, explosive fashion. The baby is fired into the world like a tiny pink cannon ball whilst its big furry momma jumps in reflex shock. If she was human she'd have screamed: “What the bloody hell was that?!? And more to the point - where did it come from?”
Obviously the bit where she subsequently tries to kill the baby by swiping at it with her huge paws, as she's got no idea what it is, isn't quite so amusing...
After the film, we end the visit at the info centre/museum bit which is as dry and dusty as the skeletal panda remains that it displays.
Incidentally, there is mention of expensive-looking expansion plans for the Panda Breeding and Research Centre. Perhaps these will be funded by the extortionate fees forked out by legions of tawwwwists to have their photo snapped next to a bigoldcuddlywuddlycuteywuteyteddybear.
It makes me a little sad that pandas have been reduced to such reliance on humans to keep them staggering along in an artificial environment, especially as we were the ones (just for a change) who endangered them in the first place.
But then, as I said, pandas are evolutionary losers, slaves to their ludicrous and fragile diet. The Breeding Centre is by no means a perfect solution, but it's better than extinction. And there's no denying its residents are cute as little fluffy kittens in pink woolen mittens...
Altogether now: “Awwww!”