This week, the world’s GPNS (Giant Panda News Service) went into overdrive. Guangzhou announced the birth of extremely rare triplets and Edinburgh zoo cheered on Tian Tian’s pregnancy.
Giant panda stories are generally good news but these are spectacularly so. They indicate the remarkable success of the giant panda artificial breeding programme and the role of zoos in the whole conservation effort.
Tian Tian was artifically inseminated in April and Ju Xiao, the triplets’ mother, in March.
Edinburgh zoo has been criticized for using its giant pandas as an ursine version of the cash cow. It’s defended itself as best it could. But really, there is little to be said about two constants:
– giant pandas are very sweet to look at
– very few people anywhere in the world get to see them
As ‘The Atlantic’ magazine wrote, back in 2007, “Very few people know firsthand how cute pandas are in quantity. Only 12 pandas exist in the United States, rented from the Chinese government for $1 million per year apiece (and some extra fees) and spread out among four zoos. The world’s other zoos outside China hold only two dozen or so more. When glimpsed by visitors, these pandas are usually on their own, making themselves scarce behind tree stumps or chewing resignedly on bamboo. At best we see a mother panda with her cub.”